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About Langston Hughes
He was one of the earliest innovators of the then-new literary art form called jazz poetry. Hughes is best known as a leader of the Harlem Renaissance. He famously wrote about the period that "the negro was in vogue", which was later paraphrased as "when Harlem was in vogue".
Bio from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Photo by Carl Van Vechten [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
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One of the most important writers to emerge from the Harlem Renaissance, Langston Hughes is best known as a poet, but these stories showcase his talent as a lively storyteller. His work blends elements of blues and jazz, speech and song, into a triumphant and wholly original idiom.
Stories included in this collection:
"Slave on the Block"
"A Good Job Gone"
"Rejuvenation Through Joy"
"The Blues I'm Playing"
"Poor Little Black Fellow"
"Mother and Child"
"One Christmas Eve"
"Father and Son"
The poems Hughes wrote celebrated the experience of invisible men and women: of slaves who "rushed the boots of Washington"; of musicians on Lenox Avenue; of the poor and the lovesick; of losers in "the raffle of night." They conveyed that experience in a voice that blended the spoken with the sung, that turned poetic lines into the phrases of jazz and blues, and that ripped through the curtain separating high from popular culture. They spanned the range from the lyric to the polemic, ringing out "wonder and pain and terror—and the marrow of the bone of life."
The poems in this collection were chosen by Hughes himself shortly before his death in 1967 and represent work from his entire career, including "The Negro Speaks of Rivers," "The Weary Blues," "Still Here," "Song for a Dark Girl," "Montage of a Dream Deferred," and "Refugee in America." It gives us a poet of extraordinary range, directness, and stylistic virtuosity.
“Langston Hughes is a titanic figure in 20th-century American literature . . . a powerful interpreter of the American experience.” —The Philadelphia Inquirer
Chosen by the non-profit organization American Poetry & Literacy Project, these much-loved verses include 13 selections from the Common Core State Standards Initiative: "Casey at the Bat," "Fog," "The New Colossus," "Chicago," "I, Too, Sing America," "O Captain! My Captain!," "Paul Revere's Ride," "The Road Not Taken," "The Raven," "Because I Could Not Stop for Death," "Mending Wall," "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," and "The River Merchant's Wife: A Letter."
Nearly ninety years after its first publication, this celebratory edition of The Weary Blues reminds us of the stunning achievement of Langston Hughes, who was just twenty-four at its first appearance. Beginning with the opening “Proem” (prologue poem)—“I am a Negro: / Black as the night is black, / Black like the depths of my Africa”—Hughes spoke directly, intimately, and powerfully of the experiences of African Americans at a time when their voices were newly being heard in our literature. As the legendary Carl Van Vechten wrote in a brief introduction to the original 1926 edition, “His cabaret songs throb with the true jazz rhythm; his sea-pieces ache with a calm, melancholy lyricism; he cries bitterly from the heart of his race . . . Always, however, his stanzas are subjective, personal,” and, he concludes, they are the expression of “an essentially sensitive and subtly illusive nature.” That illusive nature darts among these early lines and begins to reveal itself, with precocious confidence and clarity.
In a new introduction to the work, the poet and editor Kevin Young suggests that Hughes from this very first moment is “celebrating, critiquing, and completing the American dream,” and that he manages to take Walt Whitman’s American “I” and write himself into it. We find here not only such classics as “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” and the great twentieth-century anthem that begins “I, too, sing America,” but also the poet’s shorter lyrics and fancies, which dream just as deeply. “Bring me all of your / Heart melodies,” the young Hughes offers, “That I may wrap them / In a blue cloud-cloth / Away from the too-rough fingers / Of the world.”
This stirring coming-of-age tale unfolds in 1930s rural Kansas. A poignant portrait of African-American family life in the early twentieth century, it follows the story of young Sandy Rogers as he grows from a boy to a man. We meet Sandy's mother, Annjee, who works as a housekeeper for a wealthy white family; his strong-willed grandmother, Hager; Jimboy, Sandy's father, who travels the country looking for work; Aunt Tempy, the social climber; and Aunt Harriet, the blues singer who has turned away from her faith.
A fascinating chronicle of a family's joys and hardships, Not Without Laughter is a vivid exploration of growing up and growing strong in a racially divided society. A rich and important work, it masterfully echoes the black American experience.
Langston Hughes's stories about Jesse B. Semple--first composed for a weekly column in the Chicago Defender and then collected in Simple Speaks His Mind, Simple Takes a Wife, and Simple Stakes a Claim--have been read and loved by hundreds of thousands of readers. In The Best of Simple, the author picked his favorites from these earlier volumes, stories that not only have proved popular but are now part of a great and growing literary tradition.
Simple might be considered an Everyman for black Americans. Hughes himself wrote: "...these tales are about a great many people--although they are stories about no specific persons as such. But it is impossible to live in Harlem and not know at least a hundred Simples, fifty Joyces, twenty-five Zaritas, and several Cousin Minnies--or reasonable facsimiles thereof."
As Arnold Rampersad has written, Simple is "one of the most memorable and winning characters in the annals of American literature, justly regarded as one of Hughes's most inspired creations."
In I Wonder as I Wander, Langston Hughes vividly recalls the most dramatic and intimate moments of his life in the turbulent 1930s.
His wanderlust leads him to Cuba, Haiti, Russia, Soviet Central Asia, Japan, Spain (during its Civil War), through dictatorships, wars, revolutions. He meets and brings to life the famous and the humble, from Arthur Koestler to Emma, the Black Mammy of Moscow. It is the continuously amusing, wise revelation of an American writer journeying around the often strange and always exciting world he loves.
Introduction by Arnold Rampersad.
Langston Hughes, born in 1902, came of age early in the 1920s. In The Big Sea he recounts those memorable years in the two great playgrounds of the decade--Harlem and Paris. In Paris he was a cook and waiter in nightclubs. He knew the musicians and dancers, the drunks and dope fiends. In Harlem he was a rising young poet--at the center of the "Harlem Renaissance."
Arnold Rampersad writes in his incisive new introduction to The Big Sea, an American classic: "This is American writing at its best--simpler than Hemingway; as simple and direct as that of another Missouri-born writer...Mark Twain."
The Short Stories of Langston Hughes
This collection of forty-seven stories written between 1919 and 1963--the most comprehensive available--showcases Langston Hughes's literary blossoming and the development of his personal and artistic concerns. Many of the stories assembled here have long been out of print, and others never before collected. These poignant, witty, angry, and deeply poetic stories demonstrate Hughes's uncanny gift for elucidating the most vexing questions of American race relations and human nature in general.
Despite their differences — Van Vechten was forty-four to Hughes twenty-two when they met–Hughes’ and Van Vechten’s shared interest in black culture lead to a deeply-felt, if unconventional friendship that would span some forty years. Between them they knew everyone — from Zora Neale Hurston to Richard Wright, and their letters, lovingly and expertly collected here for the first time, are filled with gossip about the antics of the great and the forgotten, as well as with talk that ranged from race relations to blues lyrics to the nightspots of Harlem, which they both loved to prowl. It’s a correspondence that, as Emily Bernard notes in her introduction, provides “an unusual record of entertainment, politics, and culture as seen through the eyes of two fascinating and irreverent men.