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review 2019-06-04 00:00
The Ways of White Folks
The Ways of White Folks - Langston Hughes I enjoyed this collection, though some stories were a miss for me. I'm glad it wasn't too long though, it was not exactly an easy read because of the content. The straightforward style was refreshing though, especially after reading some more contemporary literary works this year.
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review 2018-10-22 17:05
Review: The 100 Best African American Poems- Edited by Nikki Giovanni



'The 100 Best African-American Poems' compiled by Nikki Giovanni is a very fine work, a kaleidoscope of images, emotions and observations of the Black Experience in America. It's an anthology of some of the works by various poets including titans like Amiri Baraka, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Sonia Sanchez, Langston Hughes and Giovanni herself.


Ego Tripping (there may be a Reason)


I was born in the congo
I walked to the fertile crescent and built
the sphinx
I designed a pyramid so tough that a star
that only glows every one hundred years falls
into the center giving divine perfect light
I am bad


I sat on the throne
drinking nectar with allah
I got hot and sent an ice age to europe
to cool my thirst
My oldest daughter is nefertiti
the tears from my birth pains
created the nile
I am a beautiful woman


I gazed on the forest and burned
out the sahara desert
with a packet of goat's meat
and a change of clothes
I crossed it in two hours
I am a gazelle so swift
so swift you can't catch me


For a birthday present when he was three
I gave my son hannibal an elephant
He gave me rome for mother's day
My strength flows ever on


My son noah built new/ark and
I stood proudly at the helm
as we sailed on a soft summer day
I turned myself into myself and was
men intone my loving name
All praises All praises
I am the one who would save


I sowed diamonds in my back yard
My bowels deliver uranium
the filings from my fingernails are
semi-precious jewels
On a trip north
I caught a cold and blew
My nose giving oil to the arab world
I am so hip even my errors are correct
I sailed west to reach east and had to round off
the earth as I went
The hair from my head thinned and gold was laid
across three continents


I am so perfect so divine so ethereal so surreal
I cannot be comprehended except by my permission


I mean...I...can fly
like a bird in the sky...


Such collections are always subjective- you'll always wonder why something was left out, and I noticed a couple of absences myself- but that's part of the fun, and I discovered a few gems I'd never seen before such as Old Lem, Mercy Killing, Freedom Candy and those Winter Sundays, as well as the immortal standards Harlem, Nikki-Rosa, Lift Every Voice and Sing and of course Giovanni's own magnum opus: Ego Tripping- There May Be A Reason Why, which I will always consider to be one of the finest examples of not only African-American but American culture ever created (see above). The cd is a treat- readings of about a third of the selections done by the authors themselves and notables like Ruby Dee and of course, Giovanni.


It's an excellent collection of poetry and very much a time travel device, taking you for a look back to those days when... though sometimes they don't seem all that distant. This would be a wonderful gift for anyone of any age or race but especially to African-Americans. Like singing in the cotton fields it's a chorus of bright, strong voices from our past to lighten the load a little and help guide the way as you ease on down the road.

5/5 Stars
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review 2017-12-15 22:26
Review: Selected Poems of Langston Hughes by Langston Hughes
Selected Poems - Langston Hughes

I read this for the Winter Solstice square. I am not at all familiar with the Harlem Renaissance period, so I went in with no expectations or background knowledge other than I knew Hughes was a poet from this era.


Most of the work in this book is short; I could not really get the full picture of what Hughes was describing. I think part of my problem was how the book was sectioned; I really enjoyed the Magnolia section, but the Madam series and the Dream Deferred set were tedious to read after a while. Hughes writes to a beat that is hard to flow from one poem to the next. I'll be honest and say the most I enjoyed of his poetry is when he is talking about race and racism - he really got to the heart of the matter without fussy details and still had historical details to give context and more meaning behind the poem. Many of these poems dealt with the lingering consequences of slavery and the Civil War with the present day of Jim Crow and the migration of Southern blacks to the north and west during the late 1800s and early 1900s.


Because there was no unifying theme to the book, it felt like the poem's subjects were all over the place and there was no feel to poems connecting to create a big picture. As an introduction to Hughes work, it worked okay but I think it would be better to read his single published work rather than an omnibus.

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review 2017-08-12 00:00
Not Without Laughter
Not Without Laughter - Langston Hughes It seems that we're in Kansas, in an African American community, in 1912 and beyond.

Whenever I go on vacation, I try to read some books by
African American authors. I think I only managed this one this year. The issue for me, is that I can't possibly understand other people, unless I learn about them by reading about their lives (African Americans, Japanese, Chinese, etc.). This book, although written some 87 years ago, is still a fresh lens to help us privileged, comfortably well-off white folks see ourselves as others see us; others in this case, being African Americans.

An additional interesting thing about this book is that it follows the life of a young, African American boy who lived in Kansas, from about 1912 to 1918 or so. The boy was something like 7 to 14 over this period (fuzzy math). My mother was a young girl growing up in Kansas at the same time, although she was a bit younger. So, it's interesting to read about young African American children in Kansas and to compare it with my mother's stories of growing up.

Langston Hughes was best known as a top notch poet. But this book shows that he's also a rather good novelist. The writing is wonderful.
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review 2016-08-16 00:00
The Ways of White Folks: Stories
The Ways of White Folks: Stories - Langston Hughes Well, this isn't the book I thought I was getting. I thought I was going to read a semi-autobiographical story of a young, African-American man's growing up in Kansas. My mother grew up in Kansas about the same time, so I was interested in one of those compare and contrast kinds of thingies.

But, I goofed up. This particular book is a collection of short stories that deals with the interactions of black and white people back in the days of Jim Crow and long before any significant civil rights movement. I generally try to avoid short stories, but this collection was well worth reading. Basically, it describes the strange ways in which "white folks" interact with non-white folks, non-white by dint of having some African-American ancestry.

The ways of white folks in the 30s weren't all that different from their ways in the 1950s and 60s, when I was growing up. Actually, they're still not all that different in the 21st century in some ways, although some of the more overt oppression has been muted. But we still have plenty of white folks who actively try to suppress non-white folks (race-targeted voter suppression, maintenance of segregated communities with concomitant lack of access to decent education and health care, etc.). Then, we still have the "better class" of white folks who patronize the non-white folks, and/or find their alleged primitivism amusing, but don't give them credit for being able to have "proper" opinions and preferences. A sad commentary on us all.

“the ways of white folks, I mean some white folks, is too much for me. I reckon they must be a few good ones, but most of ’em ain’t good—leastwise they don’t treat me good. And Lawd knows, I ain’t never done nothin’ to ’em, nothin’ a-tall.”

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