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Laughing Boy: A Navajo Love Story

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  2,766 Ratings  ·  173 Reviews
Capturing the essence of the Southwest in 1915, Oliver La Farge's Pulitzer Prize-winning first novel is an enduring American classic. At a ceremonial dance, the young, earnest silversmith Laughing Boy falls in love with Slim Girl, a beautiful but elusive "American"-educated Navajo. As they experience all of the joys and uncertainties of first love, the couple must face a c ...more
Paperback, 193 pages
Published June 5th 2004 by Mariner Books (first published 1929)
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Debbie Zapata
Aug 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: saturdaymx
I have stalled for a few days now before writing this review. Been extra busy in real life for one thing, but also because after I do a review, I have to acknowledge to myself that the book I have just read is actually finished. Sometimes this is easy to accept, sometimes it is a relief. And other times I don't want to let the world of that particular book go quite so quickly.

Laughing Boy fits into the last category. This incredible book won the Pulitzer Prize in 1930. The story is of a traditio
Jun 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ale-mele-citite
M-am hotărât: iubesc Premiile Pulitzer! Şi voi încerca să citesc, pe cât posibil, toate titlurile câştigătoare pe care voi pune mâna (ca să zic aşa). Pentru că, de la sfârşitul anului trecut încoace, am dat numai peste bijuterii, începând cu Puntea Sfântul Ludovic (Pulitzer Prize 1928) şi Culoarea purpurie (Pulitzer Prize 1983), apoi continuând cu Empire Falls (Pulitzer Prize 2002)... Şi acum, iată, încă un roman superb (titlul original: Laughing Boy), câştigător al Pulitzer Prize în 1930.

When I realized this book was about Native Americans, I almost put it down.
Laughing Boy was part of my project to read every Pulitzer winning novel, and I was still fresh from slogging through the “Negro story” that won the year before (1929). Sister Scarlet Mary was cringe-worthy and I had no reason to think that 1930 would treat the Navajos any better.
(As a side note, the About the Author page of Sister Scarlet Mary actually says, “[Julia Peterkin] loves the Negro and understands him. She app
Jan 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Full review at Smoke & Mirrors: I am giving this a full 5 stars because I "feel" as if this book gives genuine insight into the Native American (specifically Navajo) culture, society, and particularly belief system. However, this was written by a "white guy" and this is one of the few times in my life when I'm questioning the overall authenticity of the writing/expression of Navajo life at the time. Although La Farge was an anthropologist who studied ...more
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Eine Sache war es, einen Entschlu[ss] zu fassen, etwas ganz anderes aber, sich klarzumachen, wo er nun stand - es war der Unterschied zwischen dem Aufbruch auf einen neuen Pfad und dem Festlegen der Wegzeichen in dem neuentdeckten Land. - S. 109

1915: Der Navajo-Indianer Lachender-Knaber trifft bei dem Fest auf Schlankes-Mädchen, die zwar vom gleichen Stamm abstammt wie er, jedoch als junges Mädchen durch Amerikaner von ihrem Stamm getrenn
Aug 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Laughing Boy by Oliver La Farge
Fabulous, one of the best novels I have read, 11 out of 10!!

This book has had a big emotional impact on me.
It is not just one of the best books I have read, but also one that has made me joyful and then sad in turns.
And it made again very clear why it is so exhilarating to read great literature:
- When you read a wonderful masterpiece, you engage with it and reach a state of Flow, as described in the psychology classic of the same name
- The reader has the fantastic
Aug 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel deserves the classics designation. It seems to just grab the Navajo mindset, cognition, culture during these times - early 20th century. It tells Laughing Boy's life these few years with high context for his own individuality, his own self-identity, his own cultural bench marks- what would be at times, now considered, base values for full adulthood and strongest autonomy.

But it also tells Slim Girl's story in a secondary slant to the American contact and influence reality of the then
"Laughing Boy," published in 1929, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1930. Oliver La Farge 1901-1920 is the writer.

The story is a good depiction of Navajo life and the coming of age of "Laughing Boy," a young Navajo Indian who meets Slim Girl at a ceremonial Indian dance. They fall in love and marry against his family's wishes.

Laughing Boy is an innocent and loves horses, tribal dances and competition of all kinds. After he wins events at the ceremonial dance when he met Slim Girl, he is coerced into ga
Jan 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
First off, it's a good book. The only reason it isn't getting a five star is that I won't read it a second time, which is the absolute prerequisite to getting full marks from me. Five stars are books I've read or intend to read AT LEAST twice. It won't happen with this one. The reason is that though brilliant, it was at times an arduous read and definitely a depressing one. I'm not a huge fan of tragedies and this is essentially a tragedy on pretty much all levels other than La Farge's obvious a ...more
Oct 16, 2007 rated it really liked it
A wonderfully crafted tragic story of two Navajos, finding love with each other and dealing with a new world (Americanized) and his family (traditional) within their broader culture. Great insights into and descriptions of Navajo culture (I particularly liked the descriptions of the dances) near the time of WWI, though written by a man who was not Native American himself, but who had anthropolical background and had lived among the Navajo. Clearly an indictment of the American tendency often to ...more
Mar 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
I don't know who Oliver La Farge is...I should google him...but he knows how to think like a Navajo (in my humble Caucasian opinion). I've spent a teensy amount of time in the Southwest hiking on my own, looking at petroglyphs, reading interpretive signs at national parks, and even listening to some audio in the car about how to learn the language (I found some similarities in learning Japanese), but in the end, I'm not an Indian. I am especially not a Navajo. I am glad, however, that I once hir ...more
Mar 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book was written in 1927 and was groundbreaking in its time as all the main characters are Navajo. The story and style grew on me . Appears to give a realistic view point from Native American culture.
Kathleen Celmins
Dec 14, 2017 rated it did not like it
I didn't like this. Not even a little.
Alexandra Harmon
Nov 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A wordier version of this review can be found on my blog.

I picked up Oliver La Farge’s Laughing Boy with one preconceived feeling – dread. I came to it knowing both the book’s subject matter (Navajos in 1915) and the time period's terrible track record when it came to people of color. At best, it would be a bunch of barf-inducing noble savage stereotypes. At worst, well…

So imagine my shock when Laughing Boy turned out to be full of well-rounded characters, nuanced culture insight, and a sympathe
Rick Ludwig
Aug 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The Pulitzer Prize winning story, Laughing Boy, is a masterpiece of descriptive narration. The author creates a love story that is more than a love story. He makes his setting and characters complex and interesting and develops each with the skill of an artist. La Farge makes the scenery an integral part of the story. He presents the mood of the story through the setting. In a period of sorrow and desolation, he makes the setting desolate and barren. If he wishes to create a feeling of happines ...more
Joyce Lagow
Jul 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction in 1930.[return][return]Tony Hillerman s books featuring the Navajo policemen Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee certainly popularized Navajo culture, presenting it in a sympathetic light; Hillerman was formally made a Friend of the Navajo People by the tribe s leaders. Almost unknown, as far as I can tell, is La Farge s equally sympathetic book published at least 40 years before Hillerman came on the literary scene. [return][return]Laughing Boy, a young Navajo man in 19 ...more
Mark Valentine
Mar 01, 2016 rated it liked it
First, what I liked about this novel: La Farge wrote from his anthropology notes and included ethnographic details in the name of Realism. The veneer works as a literary device. Also, and based on this, in my reading of this novel, I got a strong sense of place and custom.

Next, what distracted me: Laughing Boy as La Farge presents him is Uncle Tomahawk: an Indian version of a step-and-fetch-it. His good nature at being taken advantage of, esp. by Slim Girl (whose real name is Comes With War) ca
Oct 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Vacationing in the southwest, we stopped in Ouray, Colorado at the Buckskin Bookstore because we'd heard it has a good selection of Western Literature. I was happy to find Laughing Boy in the "Classics of the West" section because it is one of those books I've always wanted to read but have never gotten around to. I'm glad I waited -- because driving through Navajo country - southwestern Colorado and on into Utah- provided the perfect backdrop for reading a book that is so full of the flavor of ...more
Mar 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
If you've ever been displaced, and yearned for roots, like I have, this is the novel for you. The ache that is left behind, after you finish reading this, is of a certain dull pain achieved by years and years of yearning that you wish you could belong, and yet that you will never be a part of the culture you call your own.

I have a confession to make - I visited New York City and found it empty. It is in my quest to find out what the roots of this country are, that I got this book at a store the
Sep 03, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: pulitzer
I had a hard time getting into this one, but it ended up being a pretty good book. Definitely something outside of my wheelhouse that I wouldn't have picked up if it hadn't been for the Pulitzer challenge.

Oh, I somehow forgot to say that I was astonished by some of the content in this book. At first I thought I was misunderstanding or reading into it improperly, but I became more and more sure, My God, she's hookin'! I always have the impression that things were very repressed and si
Sherry (sethurner)
"He was riding the hundred miles from T'o Tlakai to Tse Lani to attend a dance, or rather, for the horse-racing that would come afterwards."

"He" is Laughing boy, a Navajo youth who loves his people, his traditions, horses, and eventually, Slim Girl. The novel is set around 1915 in the Southwest, at a time when Native American children were first being taken to "American" schools and encouraged to learn English and forget the customs of their parents. When Laughing Boy falls in love with Slim Gi
Jul 29, 2013 rated it it was ok
This book was an attempt to write about Navajo people through an interesting perspective of a navajo girl who had been taken out of her home and sent away to school. Isolated from her people, culture, and family she became more "American" than Navajo. She attempts to get back into her culture by marrying a traditional Navajo but she lies to him about her actions and causes life to go awry. I did not like the female character at all. She is really cast in a negative light. I thought the writer al ...more
Brent Soderstrum
Oct 08, 2009 rated it liked it
This book won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1929. It is a love story set in the early 1900s in Arizona between a Navajo brave named Laughing Boy and Slim Girl, a Navajo who has come back to her people after being raised as an American.

The book gives a lot of insight into the Navajo people and shows the clash between the Navajos and Americans in their lifestyles and beliefs. Slim Girl wants to come back to her people but her past keeps raising obstacles. Laughing Boy and Slim Girl marry and
Diann Read
Dec 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
I picked up this book during our recent visit to Mesa Verde, where I was researching for my own books. I didn't know what to expect but had hoped it would provide insight into the Navajo culture. It certainly does, and it's a delightful and poignant story besides, filled with wonderful word images, poetic turns of phrase, and moments alternating between amusing and thought-provoking. I'm enjoying it far more than I expected I would.
Roxanne Russell
Jan 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: pulitzer-fiction
This 1929 Pulitzer winner contains a surprising gem... Slim Girl or Came with War, a young Navajo woman who was taken from her family at five to be educated by Americans, becomes disillusioned with Christian hypocrisy and figures out how to use the Americans for her own benefit. I appreciate how she stands as a direct reprimand to Crane's Maggie. A beautiful book.
Dec 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: pulitzer-fiction
Although a little bit cringey when you examine this text vis a vis the standard Native American stereotypes (the Brave, the Drunk Indian, the Princess, etc.), it's hard to miss the significance of what Oliver La Farge was trying to do. (You can argue whether he bungled it.) The story itself was rather haunting and sweet.
Terry Earley
Apr 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
Classic story of the clash of the modern day world with ancient civilization. The "noble savage" emerges stronger for the experience.

What I appreciate most in a novel is when it teaches me about a culture, a place or a time. This classic did it for me.
Apr 05, 2009 rated it liked it
La Farge was an anthropolgist, studying the Navaho Indians in the 1920's to 30's. He fashioned a compelling love story between Laughing Boy and Slim Girl, which is also a kind of mystery as we know the truth that one of the characters must struggle to find out. Very psychologically real.
Anna Gabur
Dec 07, 2016 rated it liked it
Although the plot in itself wasn't really a page-turner, the story was beautiful and the writing flowed nicely. It was pleasant to read.
Judy Theobald
May 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written and deeply insightful book
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Tackling the Puli...: Laughing Boy (Oliver La Farge, 1930) 7 35 Mar 10, 2016 08:51PM  
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Oliver Hazard Perry La Farge was an American writer and anthropologist, perhaps best known for his 1930 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Laughing Boy. Named for his father, Oliver H.P. Lafarge, he is the grandson of the artist and stained-glass pioneer John La Farge, nephew of the noted Beaux-Arts architect Christopher LaFarge and the father of the folk singer and painter Peter La Farge.

La Farge's sho
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