I grew up on Little House. Between the books and the TV show and later on the Ashton Drake dolls my mom got me for Christmas, Little House was embedded into my DNA.
I loved Laura. She was a total bad ass.
I’m not sure if my first memories of Nellie are from the book or the show, but man… what a bitch.
Alison Arngrim’s book isn’t all about Little House, but since it defined a major part of her childhood and then her entire life, it makes sense for her to use Nellie as her mentor and metaphor.
Arngrim’s childhood is… bizarre. Her stories of growing up in a Hollywood family are hysterical and at times depressing because of the adult role she had to step into. On the other hand, her parents never squandered her money or pulled the whole stage parent madness. Growing up knowing Liberace was normal. Growing up with a gay dad was normal.
Growing up with a sexually abusive brother was not.
This was way way way before victims’ rights. Arngrim lived in a time when only Other People were abused. No one talked about it because it didn’t happen in Nice Families. Her parents were clueless and she didn’t even know she had a voice to say no. She knew something wasn’t right, but this was not a time when anyone was teaching kids about No-Zones.
Nellie helped save her.
Nellie didn’t give a damn what anyone thought of her and slowly Arngrim realized that this was a fantastic way to live. Why try to live as a good little girl when you can be a mouthy bitch that gets what she wants?
Nellie paid the bills and later gave Arngrim the power to bring AIDS education and information about abuse to the general public. People suddenly cared about abuse when they found out someone they grew up with was a victim. Even if she played Nellie Oleson.
Arngrim is hysterical and this book was like sitting down with a good friend. She recognizes the absurdity of her life. She’s proud of the work she’s done, especially with the AIDS community and closing legal incest loopholes. She realizes she was incredibly lucky when it came to the good stuff and she’s grateful for her friendship with Melissa Gilbert.
This is a book about growing up, being a child actor, being a child actor with Michael Landon, and being a childhood actor playing one of the biggest bitches ever written.
It is not a book that figures out what the hell was wrong with Melissa Sue Anderson.