Top positive review
Growing up Black in Kansas
Reviewed in the United States on March 11, 2015
Langston Hughes is best known for his poetry and as an important figure in the Harlem Renaissance, but his semi-autobiographical novel about a boy growing up in Stanton (Lawrence) Kansas is an important account of life in the segregated north in the early 20th century. Rather than write a memoir about his own more affluent and educated family, Hughes surrounds Sandy with types: his washer-woman grandmother, Aunt Hagar, his mother Angee, maid to the severe Mrs. RIce and his father, the roaming, musical Jimboy, his aunt Harriet who becomes a somewhat successful blues singer, and aunt Tempy who has deserted her family for life imitating the white middle class. The book moves forward as Sandy questions and begins to understand the life around him, but it is more a series of set scenes than a fully-realized novel, with chapters on the many aspects of life: the carnival, church, school. I have taught this book to Kansas college students who had no idea that such conditions existed outside the South (if they even thought about segregation at all). Hughes is a terrific writer. The chapter "Dance" is Hughes at this poetic best, creating with words the jazz world he loved.