I first read the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder when I was 8 and 9 years old. I read them over and over and over again for about 3 years. When I was 11 and learned to diagram sentences in school, I would sit in the barn with the horses (we were renting a farmhouse) during the summer and diagram sentences from those books. A true language-nerd in the making, but they were simple sentences and, looking back now, I think they gave me confidence that I knew what I was doing academically. And I remember that the diagrams made the words seem a lot like math problems — I was terrible, oh-god-so-terrible, at math — so felt a little less inadequate.
Though I own the boxed set of these books, I haven’t looked inside them for many years. When I first bought them, in my excited me to have them all, I read about 1/2 of the first book and then, well, put them on the shelf and haven’t looked at them since. Today I saw this article about The Long Winter and, reading it, had a few flashes about how scary that book was way back when. The Ingalls family was trapped in their house, in that snow storm, for what seemed like an eternity, and I was afraid for them. But I also knew — since Laura had written the books and they were autobiographical — that the family had survived.
Maybe reading these books sparked my early interest in memoir and biography. People often ask me why I read so many memoirs (“They’re so depressing!” they might say), but the truth is that I love to read about how real people get through whatever it is that they get through, and most often go on to survive and thrive somehow. What better story is there? I just might have to re-read The Long Winter over the holidays.