Monday, November 24, 2008

Laughing Boy - Winner, Fiction, 1930

Laughing Boy
By: Oliver LaFarge
Houghton Mifflin Company, 1929

Laughing Boy is the story of the clash of Navajo and American societies in the early 1900s. The title character, Laughing Boy, marries Slim Girl, a young orphaned Navajo who was sent to American schools as a child. LaFarge explores the deep love that Laughing Boy has for the Navajo way and the bitterness that Slim Girl experiences as a result of her time spent in the American school where she was forced to take on the American ways and forget her own. Slim Girl seeks revenge on the Americans by marrying a Navajo, but ultimately finds a link to her people that she never expected.

While I often struggled with the flowery language used to describe Navajo society, mythology, rituals, and even everyday living, I was interested to read a story that is different from any Pulitzer winners I have read to date. Having lived as a child in New Mexico and spending time there most summers of my life since, I was able to visualize LaFarge's descriptions of the outpost towns, landscape, and Navajo dwellings and art. I know I would have never read this book on my own and I'm not sure that I will read it again, but it did expose me to some unfamiliar Navajo ideas and traditions which always make a reading worthwhile.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The War of Independence - Winner, Non-Fiction, 1930

The War of Independence
By: Claude H. Van Tyne
Houghton, 1929

I do apologize for the delay in this post, but this book was such a BEATING that it took me a month to get through it. OK, so I'm being a little dramatic, but it was rough. I think part of the problem is that it is volume 2 of Van Tyne's series, The Founding of the American Republic. It became a series when Van Tyne began writing and realized that he could fit it all into one volume, but only the second volume won the Pulitzer. Because he is in the middle of the story, I didn't feel like I fully understood where he was picking up. He also does not write a chronological narrative but focuses more on topical subjects, so I lost interest quickly. The Pulitzer was awarded posthumously, which I find interesting, but that is about it.

I did continue on with my reading while finishing this one, so I will have a post for Laughing Boy within the next couple of days!