Tuesday, April 2, 2013

What You Don't Know Can't Hurt You

The twelfth book to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction is Oliver La Farge's 1930 novel about a traditional Navajo man, Laughing Boy, who falls in love with an American-educated Navajo woman, Slim Girl. Named for its main character, Laughing Boy was the first novel about Native American life to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize. I enjoy stories about pioneers, Native Americans, and life in the West. Larry McMurtry's epic Lonesome Dove (which received the Pulitzer in 1986) remains my favorite book by an American writer and I first read it more than ten years ago. So I had high hopes for this novel. It did not meet them.

Scarlet Sister Mary # 11

I am always eager to read a book that has previously been banned. Of course there is the rebellious side but there is also an intense curiosity to see just what was the big deal?  Well in that regard, this book certainly did not disappoint. Scarlet Sister Mary is a scandalous story of a woman who dared to not only have sex with whomever she pleased, but she was also brazen enough to proudly bear the children of her affairs and parade them around her community without shame or excuse. It is an awesomely daring story-line for a book published in the late 1920s. Of course the extremely heavy hand of Southern-style Protestantism makes it all better in the end, but that was to be expected.

But onto the historical significance of the book... This book disproves a very controversial sentiment held by many about the existence of "African-American Literature."  To quote a reader from GoodReads.org (speaking about Toni Morrison's Sula):