I’m not a fan of tell-all books written by “stars” trying to hang on to their star status. I was looking for a particular book with “prairie” in the title and “Confessions of a Prairie Bitch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated” is one of the books that came up in my search. I would never buy such a book, but it was the library, and the title intrigued me enough that I decided to check it out and read it. I was not searching for it, but came across it serendipitously, just as I came across “A Wilder Rose” (see previous post).
I loved this book. Alison Arngrim had a horrific childhood: ignored by her parents and abused by her older brother. But she writes with candor and a dry sense of humor so you never sense that she feels sorry for herself. Instead of being self-pitying, Alison finds ways to use comedy not as a mask for tragedy, but as a way to heal from abuse.
“Confessions of a Prairie Bitch” looks fondly back on the years Alison spent on the Little House set. She credits the outlet the show provided with giving her a place of acceptance and sanity in the midst of an insane life. Alison also writes that Nellie Oleson, the girl everyone loved to hate, gave her the courage to stand up for herself and for the worth and value of every life. Alison writes, “Nellie Oleson allowed me to scream, to howl, to throw things, to pour out all my pain and rage over and over again in a safe place.”
After leaving Little House on the Prairie and watching her television “husband” and best friend Steve Tracy die of AIDS, Alison became an activist. She used her fame (infamy?) as a force for change. Just as Nellie never backed down from a fight, Alison channels that attitude and doesn’t let anything stand in the way of doing what she knows is right.
At the time she wrote the book, Alison had just joined the board of PROTECT, an organization fighting for victims of incest. By speaking out about her abuse, she helped to get the “incest exemption” law changed in California. The “incest exemption” laws which treat the rape of a minor as less criminal (a misdemeanor instead of a felony) if done by someone that child knows, are still on the books in several states.
I enjoyed this book much more than I expected. I enjoyed reading about the “behind the scenes” life on Little House, and I found Alison Arngrim to be someone I could respect and admire for her work beyond being a “star.” I highly recommend “Confessions of a Prairie Bitch.” After reading it, you will never look at Nellie Oleson the same way again.