Langston Hughes (1902-1967) was born James Mercer Langston Hughes in Joplin, Missouri. He was a prolific writer, poet, playwright, author and activist. As a young man, Langston led a complex and adventurous life both in the United State and abroad, which undoubtedly influenced his writing style and his outpouring of work. He was a key player in the Harlem Renaissance, a collective of African-American writers, artists, performers, and activists, which included Zora Neale Hurston, Paul Robeson, Alan Locke, Claude Toomer, Josephine Baker, and Louis Armstrong.
Intrigued by both the Harlem Renaissance and its key players, I found myself drawn to Hughes collection of short stories The Way of White Folks. And though it was published in 1934, I find it immensely timely in 2017.
Langston’s stories fully express the lives of black people, especially when dealing with white people, during the 1920s and ‘30s, even those so-called good liberal white people who only seemed to be on the side of “colored people.” These stories are at turns sad and humorous, and not one of them rings a false note.
The Way of White Folks consists of 14 powerful short stories. It opens with “Cora Unashamed.” Cora of the title is Cora Jenkins who lives in small town called Melton. She is considered a “Negress,” that is a polite, unassuming, and quiet colored lady. She works for the Studevants, who sadly to say, don’t treat her in a favorable manner. And Cora accepts this because due to her race and her sex, she doesn’t have much power.
Cora does everything for the Studevants. She cleans cooks, runs errands and takes care of the children. But to the Studevants, Cora is just a servant, nothing more. She should be grateful for the job.
But she is so much more than a servant. She is quietly strong. She once had a passionate love affair. And as the “Cora Unashamed” unfolds proves to be far more bold and passionate than she lets on unleashing a very surprising and interesting dénouement.
In “Home,” the protagonist, Roy Williams goes back to his home in the United States after many years of making a living as a jazz musician, traveling all over Europe. Roy contemplates how his experiences in both cultures as a black man are similar and different.
The Colony, a collective of black artists and intellectuals, is splendidly examined in the chapter called, “Rejuvenation of Joy.” These talented people convey both the good and bad of The Colony and what they face when not in their protective and inspiring community of shared experiences.
The final chapter “Father and Son” tells the tale of Colonel Thomas Norwood’s relationship with his black mistress Coralee Lewis and their biracial children. Colonel Norward takes advantage but doesn’t offer advantage to these children. And his attitude is best summed up in the dejected and heartbreaking words of his son, Bert.
“Oh, but I’m not a nigger, Colonel Norwood. I’m your son.”
Although I finished this book several days ago, I still feel them greatly. I have very little in common with Langston Hughes. I am a privileged white woman born and raised after the age of Jim Crow. Yet, I’d like to think it’s my deep well of empathy that made me love this book, but I also grew up in a small town where people still harbor the racist ideas of the white folks in this collection. When it comes to works of culture and art, we don’t only see them as they are; we also see them as we are.
But for the most part, the reason why The Way of White Folks cuts so deep is due to the book itself, and Langston’s gifted, soulful way with the English language. It is a book that will take a figurative spot within my soul, and one I can truly say is placed on my book self.
If you’re concerned about law and social justice issues, Book Riot says you should read these books.
Texas-based grad student discovers Walt Whitman’s lost novel.
Oscar-winner Tom Hanks to publish his first book, a collection of short stories.
High school students give back by building libraries for low-income students.
Fifteen ways to grab an audience.
Jessa Crispin’s take on feminism sounds very intriguing.
Today is the premiere of my new blog, Popcorn In My Bra.
Hello faithful readers. What a beautiful day it is here in Wisconsin. It is 60 degrees outside and I’m fully enjoying it. Unfortunately, being that it is February in Wisconsin it won’t last long. Sigh.
What else? I should have a book review up later this week. I’m also considering a new series that I’m sure will delight my readers. I’m not sure when I’ll be able to launch it for it involves some financial issues, but I truly want to give back to my readers in a positive and fun way.
And I’d be remiss not mentioning that I have another blogging goody up my sweater sleeve. Later this week, possibly Wednesday, I will launch my new blog right here on WordPress, which will focus on another love of mine, MOVIES! This blog will feature DVD reviews, film news, opinions and features, my love of guilty pleasure flicks and misty walks down memory lane celebrating the best of the classics, and other cinematic treasures! I just finished up some maintenance of the blog, and started writing my first DVD review.
Protesters send books to the Non-Reader-in-Chief
Emmet Till book inspires cousins to re-open his case more than 60 years after his brutal murder.
Urueña, Spain has 200 residents and 12 book stores.
CBS Sunday Morning’s segment on the popularity of romance novels.
For ages, work equaled having a job so you could put a roof over your head, keep your belly full, clothe your back and pay your bills, taxes, mortgage, insurance, car note and other life essentials. And if you had some of your hard-earned paycheck left over you might treat yourself to a day at the spa, a night out on the town or attend a concert or sporting event.
But work doesn’t just mean money. Work also conveys discipline, education, skills, talent, passion, and making contribution to society and culture as a whole. Work is the solution to society’s ills, after all, idle hands are the devil’s workshop, right?
According to James Livingston maybe we need to take a look at our age-old idea of work and turn this idea on its head. And he goes into this further in his thought provoking book No More Work: Why Full Employment is a Bad Idea.
According to Livingston, professor of history at Rutgers University, gainful employment is seen by Americans, of all political leanings, as a proper goal for all of us instead of a problem that needs to some serious overview and overhaul, both morally and economically. We need to examine why we go to work and how it is affecting us as human beings and as a nation.
There are several problems with gainful employment for your average American worker. One includes technology and automation are replacing humans for various business transaction. We do are banking on-line, use the self-checkout at the grocery store, and check out various travel websites rather than talk about our vacation plans with a travel agent.
Another factor Livingston examines in No More Work is how we have reached peak productivity levels that do nothing more than provide a cushion of leisure for most of us. Yet it is mostly the one percent among us who truly benefit primarily due to the how both wealth and work are dispersed. We have far too many workers make less than a truly life sustaining wage, often using public assistance just to make it. And it’s not just people working at Wal-Mart. Even people who are college educated and working white collar professions rely on food stamps and other “entitlements.” Meanwhile, some CEOs make huge sums of money in both income and assets even as they make decisions that can sink a company.
And there is this idea of the “romance of work,” the age old Protestant work ethic most Americans swear by even though it doesn’t always benefit us financially, mentally, emotionally and so on.
So what is the solution according to Mr. Livingston? One solution is taxing corporate profits, which often aren’t used to fully invest in ways that benefit most of us. By now I think most of us realize “trickle-down economics” is a complete myth.
What else does Livingston suggest? Livingston also suggests implementing a guaranteed minimum basic income. This may sound familiar to many of my readers when I debunked Miriam Weaver and Amy Jo Clark’s badly researched take on this concept in my review of their book Right for a Reason.
A basic guaranteed income for all citizens is being examined again and is supported by both those on the left and the right. Personally, I think the idea is very intriguing, and even with this type of income, most of us will seek some type extra of employment to make more money and to get benefits, especially health insurance.
No doubt No More Work is brings up several controversial issues, but I do hope it’s used as a springboard when it comes to the concepts of full employment, corporate America, guaranteed basic income, raising the minimum wage, income inequality, our current tax system, entitlements, and our concepts of work, leisure, life, and money that are deeply etched into our country’s psyche.
Hillary Clinton writing a book on the 2016 campaign and her loss.
Five years after Trayvon Martin was brutally murdered, his parents write a book about their son and their grief.
Learn more about Frederick “Amazing Job” Douglass and his first book, “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave.”
More than science fiction, today’s high school students see Orwell’s “1984” as a reflection of today’s society and culture.
Patton Oswalt reveals what caused the death of his wife, true crime-writer Michelle McNamara.
What is “hybrid publishing” and why are so many authors turning to it?
Have at least $75 to spend? The Shorewood, Wisconsin library is selling a diorama of the book “Goodnight Moon.”