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The Big Sea: An Autobiography (American Century Series) Paperback – August 1, 1993
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About the Author
Langston Hughes was born in Joplin, Missouri, went to Cleveland, Ohio, lived for a number of years in Chicago, and long resided in New York City's Harlem. He graduated from Lincoln University in 1929 and was awarded an honorary Litt. D. in 1943. He was perhaps best known as a poet and the creator of Simple, but he also wrote novels, biography, history, plays (several of them Broadway hits), and children's books, and he edited several anthologies. Mr. Hughes died in 1967.
Arnold Rampersad, author of the widely acclaimed biography The Life of Langston Hughes, is Woodrow Wilson Professor of Literature and director of American Studies at Princeton University.
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Top Customer Reviews
I found it intriguing that such a wonderful writer struggled so. Much like Maya Angelou's books, this book left me with the feeling that truly great people can overcome tremendous obstacles to succeed. Also like Maya's books, this book made me realize that many of my own troubles pale to those of some very successful people.
Perhaps what I enjoyed most about this book was Hughes' reflection on Harlem, 1920s-1930s. His interaction with such greats as Van Vechten, Hurston, Thurman, and others was fascinating, leaving me wanting to know even more about 1920-30s life in Harlem.
I truly enjoyed this book
I knew his poetry, of course, from all those years as an English major. I have not had the occasion to read any of his prose, and decided to pick this up after reading the collected works of Nella Larsen.
There was a lot to engage with in The Big Sea. I particularly liked Hughes' description of the Harlem Renaissance. His tone when he talked about it was affectionate and wistful, but still acknowledged the limitations that it had as a lasting solution. There were many great stories ("never hit a woman") and fascinating details-- reproductions of the whist party invitations, for example.
I also really was interested in the way that Hughes discusses his father and the issue of the race. His father left the US (first to Cuba, then to Mexico) in order to avoid race prejudice. His father had nothing but scorn for people of color who stayed in the US and subjected themselves to the inevitabilities of race and class limitations. The anger that this self-imposed exile cost him comes out in his dealings with his son and the way in which he engages with the world around him.
At points, it is as though Hughes is meditating on all the different ways that people around him (including him) have used to address the race problem. It is not the most uplifting of sketches, since none of the various paths seem (according to Hughes) to be a good or lasting solution.
Well-written, interesting, and with many pointers to further reading.
Like Armstrong, Hughes also faced the same world with his broad smile. Throughout the BIG SEA and I WONDER AS I WANDER, there in the texts of both autobiographies is the ever smiling Hughes. Other than the people he met and the foreign lands he visited---all making for great and entertaining reading--- very little is revealed about the man he was. His larger than life personae masked a man who was only 5'4 in stature, closeted gay
because being open would have meant a short career and ostracism, especially in the African American community who was a refuge from a racially hostile world and who Hughes loved with an unmatched passion back in his day, and, according to the late Gwendolyn Brooks who had known Hughes since the age of 16 wrote in a New York Times article that when Hughes was subjected to offense and icy treatment because of his race, he was capable of jagged anger - and vengeance, instant or retroactive. She has letters from him that reveal he could respond with real rage when he felt he was treated cruelly by other people.
Both autobiographies do a great job at documenting the world in Hughes' day. The most fascinating thing about the first book of his life is the Harlem Renaissance and the people who moved in it during its illustrious height. Till this day, the BIG SEA provides one of the best sources of this important period in American culture. Few people realized that if not for best friend Arna Bomtemps the autobiography may have never been written. Bontemps encouraged Hughes to write the book. Up to that time, few blacks, especially black males, had seen and done what Hughes managed to do.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Fantastic read! This book gives you a deep insight into the life of author Langston Hughes and the struggles of an African American man in American society. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Alley McAlley
Frank and heartwarming memoir. I loved learning more about Langston, in his own words.Published 5 months ago by Amazon Customer
I also recommend I Wonder as I Wander, Langston Hughes' Autobiography about his 1930's, both very enjoyable reads/travel logs.Published 5 months ago by Kenneth S. Hayes
There's nothing like a first-hand account of a life like that of Langston Hughes! I started reading the classic biography, which was quoting The Big Sea, and I thought - wait, why... Read morePublished 9 months ago by djbinthecosmos
This autobiography begins with the author sailing out of New York harbor and chucking his collection of books overboard, "as far as I could out into the sea" (pg. 31). Read morePublished 10 months ago by Hamilton Beck
If you don't know much about the life of Langston, then this is a good place to start. Written over 50 years ago, it provides a sanitized glimpse into the life of this iconic... Read morePublished 11 months ago by Abou Fall
This expansive, witty, completely surprising autobiography is one of the best books about a young writer in search of himself and his voice since Joyce's "Portrait of an... Read morePublished 12 months ago by T-Bone
Boring. He's a great poet and short story writer, but not a good memoirist.Published 18 months ago by Collette Funkhauser