The Education of Little Tree is a memoir-style novel written by Asa Earl Carter under the pseudonym Forrest Carter. First published in 1976 by Delacorte Press, it was initially promoted as an authentic autobiography recounting Forrest Carter’s youth experiences with his Cherokee grandparents in the Appalachian mountains. However, the book was proven to be a literary hoax orchestrated by Asa Earl Carter, a KKK member from Alabama heavily involved in segregationist causes before he launched his career as a novelist. Although claimed to be autobiographical originally, it is now believed that it is only based on Carter’s fanciful but fraudulent family claims.
The book was a modest success at its publication, attracting readers with its message of environmentalism and simple living and its mystical Native American theme. It became a bigger popular success when the University of New Mexico Press reissued it in paperback, and saw another resurgence in interest in 1991, entering the New York Times Best Seller list and receiving the first ever American Booksellers Association Book of the Year (ABBY) award. It also became the subject of controversy the same year when historian Dan T. Carter definitively demonstrated that Forrest Carter was Asa Earl Carter, spurring several additional investigations into his biography. It was revealed that he had been a Ku Klux Klan member and segregationist political figure in Alabama who wrote speeches for George Wallace. Family members of Carter’s claim that he did have Cherokee ancestry on his maternal grandparents’ side.Carter was planning a sequel titled The Wanderings of Little Tree at the time of his death in 1979. A film adaptation was released in 1997. The book has been the subject of a number of scholarly articles, many focusing on the hoax and on the impact of the author’s white supremacist background on the work.