This year the South Dakota Historical Society Press had the opportunity to exhibit at the largest annual book trade fair in the United States. Located in New York City at the Javits Center for 2014, Book Expo America (BEA) brings in thousands of business professionals every year to meet, listen to panels, and find the next “big book.” And, this year, Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography was one of them. As Claire Kirch stated in her article, “Little Booth, Gigantic Books,” for Publishers Weekly, “Even with all the celebrity authors wandering around Javits, it’s impossible to overlook two monumental South Dakota Historical Society Press books about larger-than-life subjects: Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography of Laura Ingalls Wilder and Love Letters from Mount Rushmore.” She went on to say, “Even though Wilder wrote during the 1930s Great Depression, readers can still relate to her life story.”
Kirch was not the only BEA affiliate to understand that Wilder’s relevance has not faded. We spent three busy days talking with distributors, librarians, reviewers, bloggers, and other “book people” who shared their excitement about having access to Wilder’s first manuscript.
In both Pioneer Girl and These Happy Golden Years, Wilder wrote about her first composition, “Ambition.” Though the real and fictional essays differ, in These Happy Golden Years, young Laura writes, “Ambition is necessary to accomplishment.” With such an important principle in mind, we had embarked on our ambitious BEA experience. Luckily, we had a little more time to prepare than Laura did when she set down to write her first piece of prose.
The trip yielded valuable information and contacts. Wilder made a lasting impression, showing that her coming-of-age story speaks volumes, even to those who haven’t experienced the open wilderness that Pa and Laura so loved. BEA 2014 was a success!