by Langston Hughes, Akiba Sullivan Harper (Editor), Arnold Rampersad (Introduction)
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.
This collection of 47 stories, many previously out-of-print, is a welcome and overdue addition that clearly shows the evolution of Hughes's literary sensibility and craft. Harper, a Spelman College professor, has assembled these stories in order of their publication and has included an appendix of early work, some of which are from Hughes's high-school literary magazine. Largely autobiographical, and set in locations around the world (but most frequently in this country), many of these stories revolve around the same themes: the ultimately demeaning patronage of whites; the challenges of realizing dreams in a world of limited opportunity; and the timeless tensions between the sexes. By turns poignant and indignant, these stories achieve power by revealing small moments that betray more universal truths. In "Slave on the Block," a dilettante white painter doesn't understand the defiance of her model, posing as a slave for sale, who leaves abruptly before the work is complete. "Professor" describes the hidden humiliation of a black educator whose imagination sustains him as he endures an evening with wealthy white patrons from whom he is seeking funds for his small college. Stories inspired by Hughes's year aboard a freighter that plied the coast of West Africa are included, as are tales from his most famous collection, The Ways of White Folk. Princeton professor Arnold Rampersand's cogent introduction places the work in context. This is a thoughtfully assembled collection, in which readers can see Hughes mature, moving from idealism and broad sentiment toward a canny, worldly wisdom. (Aug.)
Langston Hughes (1902-67) was born in Joplin, Missouri, was educated at Lincoln University, and lived for most of his life in New York City. He is best known as a poet, but he also wrote novels, biography, history, plays, and children's books. Among his works are two volumes of memoirs, The Big Sea and I Wonder as I Wander, and two collections of Simple stories, The Best of Simple and The Return of Simple.
Akiba Sullivan Harper is a professor of English at Spelman College and the editor of The Return of Simple.
Arnold Rampersad, Woodrow Wilson Professor of Literature at Princeton University, is the author of The Life of Langston Hughes and editor of The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes.
Paperback; 320 pages