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Laughing Boy: A Navajo Love Story

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  3,553 ratings  ·  254 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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Average rating 3.74  · 
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 ·  3,553 ratings  ·  254 reviews

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Start your review of Laughing Boy: A Navajo Love Story
"I am not a Navajo, nor am I an American, but the Navajos are my people."

This novel, set in the American southwest of 1915, is the 1930 Pulitzer-prize winning novel. As the title implies, it is in fact a love story of sorts. But beyond that, it seems to speak to a time and place when the Navajos were caught between the influence of the American way of life due to westward expansion and the customs and traditions of their own people. Laughing Boy, a Navajo young man, fills the role of a tradition
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
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
Michael Finocchiaro
I am not sure what comes over the Pulitzer committee sometimes. This book was written by a white person in New Orleans about distant Navajo tribes in Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico. Its protagonists have the emotional maturity of my 11-year-old daughter. The whole thing felt condescending to me. I found the writing had occasionally some poetry when describing the West and Indian culture (although one cannot keep from wondering how much of this La Large didn't just pilfer out of anthropological r ...more
Sue K H
Aug 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This is a beautiful love story that is gorgeously romantic while being the antithesis of a formulaic romance novel.  Though largely about two Navajo's who fall in love, it's also a love story of their specific culture and customs in the early 1900's Southwest, while remaining universal in its broader themes.  

Laughing Boy and Slim girl meet at a ceremonial Navajo dance but they are from two different worlds.  While she is a Navajo, she was schooled as an American and orphaned by the time she was
Feb 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It reminded me of Kleenex - the way several diaphanous layers make up one substantial tissue. I think the author wanted me to envision it as a woven Navajo Blanket with lives and stories woven into the pattern. That's outside my experience, I thought of Kleenex and phyllo dough. And the author did a great job of writing a good story with interesting characters, a sense of place and timeless themes.

Reader beware, however, this is a work of art that requires commitment by reader; the plot develops
Helga Cohen
This Pulitzer Prize winning book for fiction (1930) described the culture of the Southwest in 1915 in an engaging way. La Farge, described how Laughing Boy, a Navajo, met Slim Girl who had been westernized during her years at a boarding school during a ceremonial communal dance. During this time Slim Girl lost all tribal and family connections. Laughing Boy and Slim Girl fell in love. They must face a changing way of life as they marry despite the disapproval of Laughing Boy’s family.

In this boo
Apr 27, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2020-pulitzers
Interesting, but not quite a true First Peoples voice.
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 Nat ...more
I have a habit of regularly picking up a prize winner as one of my ways of making sure I read a variety of authors. Sometimes I am disappointed or even bored with the result, but more often I am thrilled to make a new discovery. Laughing Boy was one of those discoveries. The story begins in a very simple manner, what even feels initially to be overly simple. Boy meets girl: a love story.

But as you read, the story becomes more complex. Laughing Boy was raised in a traditional Navajo family. He i
earlier readings: 4 stars
This was my intro to specific Native American tribes. It was definitely not my typical choice of books. I liked it much better the second and third times I read it. A good many years have passed since I last took this off the shelf, so it's probably time to read it again. (And write a more meaningful review.)

2018: Maybe, just maybe, I'm beginning to understand something about the Navajo culture and that may be why this story means more to me now than it did when I was yo
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
Aug 01, 2018 rated it liked it
Set in the early 20th century, this is the story of the relationship between two Navajo youth who meet at a communal dance and fall instantly in love. But this marriage is fraught with difficulties as Laughing Boy comes from a traditional Navajo upbringing, but Slim Girl has been westernized during her years at a boarding school and has lost all tribal and family connections. Based on the author’s observations during his time in Navajo country, this book contains interesting descriptions of Nava ...more
Aug 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing

This book dropped me straight into the canyons of New Mexico, and the early, unsettled contact between the northern Navajo nation, The People, and those they called Americans, whose chief was ‘in Washingdon’.

Laughing Boy’s enjoyment of Navajo gatherings, races, and dances conveyed much about what The People most esteemed - namely, to follow the trail of beauty.
“Laughing Boy was more than just what that name implied; one felt the warrior under the gaiety, and by his songs and silver, he was an
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
Dec 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book is pure poetry, a journey on the Trail of Beauty. Can you love someone who is different from everyone else? When Laughing Boy meets Slim Girl, that’s his challenge.
Mar 15, 2021 rated it really liked it

Writing 4
Story line 4
Characters 4
Impact 3

Overall rating 3.75
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
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
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 16, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: literary-fiction
I didn't love this book and am prepared to strip off some veneer with some hard-boiled you are forewarned.

Encountered in this book is a young Native American girl who has been seduced and abandoned by a faceless American guy. As a result of this, she's an outcast and she takes up prostitution.

In time, she judiciously limits who she'll have sex for money with to one guy...and she's doing it as a symbolic act of revenge on that guy and other Americans who have screwed her in various
Paul Manytravels
In spite of my reluctance to give 5 star ratings, I find myself unable to consider anything else for this wonderful book. In spite of being a first novel, it won a Pulitzer Prize and certainly deserved it.
I probably should not be surprised that I am giving 5 star ratings lately since I depend so heavily on the ratings and comments of others whenever I choose a book, but since those ratings have been so helpful, I feel a bit duty-bound to pay it forward.
Laughing Boy is an intense love story, not
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
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
Shirley (stampartiste)
Several years ago, my husband and I were privileged to be invited to a week-long Sundance on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona. We got to know several of The People as we worked with them preparing meals for those who came to participate in the dance. It was a wonderful experience which left me with a deep appreciation for the Navajo way of life, their deep spirituality and the foundational role that family and community plays in their lives. In his book, Laughing Boy: A Navajo Love Story, I bel ...more
Brian Reynolds
Nov 30, 2020 rated it liked it
This 1930 Pulitzer winner is a standard romance of two young people with some unexpected twists. The characters are two young Navajos living on the reservation. The romance story is a basic one: between the young extremely competent insider, Laughing Boy, and the atypical outsider, Slim Girl, a Navajo who attended a school run by Americans to basically Americanize young Navajos. There is the issue of acceptance between Laughing Boy’s ‘family and friends’ and the outsider girl, who has no family. ...more
Laughing Boy is a beautifully written, lyrical novel about two Navajos who fall in love and marry. Laughing Boy is traditional; Slim Girl was taken to an American school and acculturated. The lead character is Laughing Boy, as we enter his point of view for most of the novel. All I know about the historic period of the story is that the book was published in 1929.

I decided to read this book after attending a conversation called "Land, Loss, & Memory" between N. Scott Momaday & Louise Erdrich sp
Sandy O'Brien
Dec 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beauty amid Tragedy

I would never have chosen this book; however, it was the book club assignment. Thank goodness it made the cut! As I am in no way a Native American expert, the rituals, traditions, and way of life presented are taken on faith. The love story, while not surprisingly tragic, will haunt me. Even though the foreshadowing left no doubt that this love would bring pain, it brought peace and growth, as well. LaFarge's facility with language, his exceptional descriptions, and his extrao
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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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