Laughing Boy by Oliver LaFarge

I’m slowly making my way through all of the Pulitzer Prize winners. My library happened to have this one on the shelf.

Published: 1929

Genre: fiction

Length: 302 pages

Setting: New Mexico, 1910s

Summary: Laughing Boy may not have much, but he’s happy with his life. He’s also hoping his new horse is fast enough to a race at the big dance at Tse’ Lani. At the dance, Slim Girl catches his eye. his family warn him away from her since she was raised in a white man’s school and doesn’t know the proper Navajo traditions. Laughing Boy is stubborn, though, and Slim Girl has decided he is the man for her. She takes him back to her house and entices him with her semi-Western ways into marriage. They have an non-traditional marriage. This is partly because of Slim Girl’s upbringing, even though Laughing Boy is helping her to learn the traditions, including weaving. It’s also because Slim Girl is taking money from a local rancher in return for sexual favors, unbeknownst to Laughing Boy. He accidentally find the two of them together one afternoon, and shoots them both. However, Laughing Boy and Slim Girl are able to reconcile their marriage. They decide to move back with family immediately, but Slim Girl is shot by a rival along the way.

Final thoughts: I went into this book cold, having no idea what it was about, and I was delighted to read it. The writing style pulled me immediately into the Southwest and into the Native American community. The Navajos were just starting to feel the negative influence of Western culture. I could see their efforts to hold on to their customs while Whites brought alcohol, guns and trade into the area. Slim Girl was a victim of that influence and she totally took advantage of Laughing Boy. He loved her, even without knowing her history, but she wanted to bind him to her with alcohol and money. Laughing Boy was a good influence on her, and she started to become more Navajo in her ways. She even began to make a name for herself with her weaving. But, she was greedy and wanted all the money she could get out of the rancher without giving up her husband. Of course, living a double life will come back to haunt you eventually. It looked like Laughing Boy and Slim Girl would survive the revelation, but it was not to be.

Title comes from: it was the name of the main character

Awards won: the Pulitzer Prize in 1930

Reading challenges fulfilled: book #12 for the year, and an L in my Title Reading the Alphabet Challenge

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can click on the cover image to follow an Amazon affiliate link to the book and thanks for supporting my blog!

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