Pioneer Girl

Pioneer Girl

Book - 2014
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Discovering a family heirloom that her mother may have received from Laura Ingalls Wilder, PhD graduate Lee Lien explores the tenuous connection between her ancestors and the famous pioneer author only to discover a trail of clues that lead to fateful encounters.
Publisher: New York : Viking, 2014
ISBN: 9780670025091
Branch Call Number: Nguyen, B
Characteristics: 296 pages ; 24 cm


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IndyPL_SteveB Apr 19, 2019

We are all immigrants. Some of us because we came from other countries, with different cultures and languages. Some because we moved from Florida to Indiana or Indiana to California. Some because we changed cultures within the United States, by marrying someone of a different race or religion, by coming out as gay, by taking on a new job that placed us in a new type of community. Even if you grew up in one town and stayed there, we are all *descended* from recent immigrants. Unless your ancestry is pure Native American on both sides, you are the product of people who left their homelands, usually leaving their customs, occupations, languages, and most of their families behind.

But beyond that, we are all immigrants into LIFE. We are born with no language, no customs, no knowledge; many babies are even born with no family. We have little in the way of instincts; we have to learn everything, and our culture and the feelings of the people around us must always remain at least partly a mystery. So a writer like Bich Minh Nguyen, even though she is the child of Vietnamese immigrants, can give us the same opportunity for empathy and understanding as any other writer. As humans we share much more than we contrast.

Lee Lien is the good daughter who never quite gets appreciated by her mother. Her brother Sam is a poor student, disrespectful, but gets away with everything because he is the son. While Lee did her doctoral thesis on Edith Wharton, she is actually obsessed with the Little House on the Prairie series of Laura Ingalls Wilder. She sees it both as an idealized image of what Americans should be and as an adventure story about immigrants like her family, moving from place to place trying to find “home.” Her grandfather told stories which seemed to give her family a connection to Rose Wilder Lane, Laura’s daughter, so Lee travels to Iowa, Missouri, and San Francisco in search of answers. We learn a lot about Laura and Rose that I never knew before; and we experience Lee’s attempt to find the difficult American ideal balance between being an individual and a member of a family. It’s not any easier for her than it is for the rest of us.

This is a moving, well-written book that can speak to anyone.

Jul 10, 2017

This was a charming book. I loved the way she wove the theme of the Wilders with the main character's own immigration and settlement stories.

Apr 21, 2015

Interesting book. I am about halfway through it, but one of the characters works at the San Francisco Main Library, in the History Center.

Apr 12, 2015

This was a good book, though it didn't blow my socks off. I listened to it on audio, and it was a bit slow. I think I would have enjoyed reading it more.

Jun 29, 2014

To my surprise, I loved this book. I was impressed with how the author described the sights, sounds & smells of a scene. She'd leave me with impressions of what was going on, without actually describing what was going on as she told the story.


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