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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Confessions of a Prairie Bitch...Review

About the book:
For seven years, Alison Arngrim played a wretched, scheming, selfish, lying, manipulative brat on one of TV history's most beloved series. Though millions of Little House on the Prairie viewers hated Nellie Oleson and her evil antics, Arngrim grew to love her character—and the freedom and confidence Nellie inspired in her.

Confessions of a Prairie Bitch, Arngrim describes growing up in Hollywood with her eccentric parents: Thor Arngrim, a talent manager to Liberace and others, whose appetite for publicity was insatiable, and legendary voice actress Norma MacMillan, who played both Gumby and Casper the Friendly Ghost. She recalls her most cherished and often wickedly funny moments behind the scenes of Little House: Michael Landon's "unsaintly" habit of not wearing underwear; how she and Melissa Gilbert (who played her TV nemesis, Laura Ingalls) became best friends and accidentally got drunk on rum cakes at 7-Eleven; and the only time she and Katherine MacGregor (who played Nellie's mom) appeared in public in costume, provoking a posse of elementary schoolgirls to attack them.

Arngrim relays all this and more with biting wit, but she also bravely recounts her life's challenges: her struggle to survive a history of traumatic abuse, depression, and paralyzing shyness; the "secret" her father kept from her for twenty years; and the devastating loss of her "Little House husband" and best friend, Steve Tracy, to AIDS, which inspired her second career in social and political activism. Arngrim describes how Nellie Oleson taught her to be bold, daring, and determined, and how she is eternally grateful to have had the biggest little bitch on the prairie to show her the way.

I didn't love and adore the Little House on the Prairie television show and I always found the character of Nellie Oleson annoying.  However, I thoroughly enjoyed Alison's memoir.  It was a quick, easy, entertaining read.  Alison is refreshingly honest and forthright.  Born into an eccentric family of actors, her upbringing was unconventional and tragic.  Abused at the hand of her brother and often ignored by her parents, Alison  managed to overcome it all, with her humor intact.

The book contains a fair amount of profanity and while I hate vulgarity and find it unnecessary, it wasn't gratuitous. Although it will keep me from giving the book the 4 stars I'd like to give it.  The narration is smooth and you can almost imagine yourself sitting next to Alison as she talks about her experiences.  Given her personality, I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but this wasn't some salacious or haughty tell all book.  While we get a lot of behind the scene experiences and quite a bit of dishing, we also get Alison's honest commentary and observations.

Where Melissa Gilbert wanted to shatter people's perceptions of herself in her memoir, Alison Arngrim simply brings us into her world to discover who she really is.  Her life was touched by abuse and AIDS and I appreciate how she used her celebrity to help others and bring attention to these issues.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 10/10

* * * *
4/5 Stars


  1. I've been debating if I'd be interested in reading this book, and after your review, I think I may have to find a copy. Nellie Olson annoyed me more than any other character on TV, not just Little House, but between her and Melissa Gilbert, they made the show a great success.

    Great review!

  2. I've never even seen Little House on the Prairie, but I do love memoirs.