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The Life of Langston Hughes, 1902-1941: I, Too, Sing America

5 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0735102712
ISBN-10: 0735102716
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Rampersad, one of our foremost African-American scholars, is an apt biographer for Hughes (1902-67), our greatest black poet. I, Too, Sing America (volume 1) covers the years during which Hughes produced his best work and was most politically active; I Dream a World (volume 2) chronicles his artistic decline due to overwork in= response to perpetual financial difficulties. Both volumes are psychologically astute, critically penetrating and masterful in their intermingling of Hughes' story with a chronicle of the enormous changes that took place in black America during his lifetime. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review


"This is a book I have waited half a lifetime for."--Alice Walker. "Excellent....Mr. Rampersad [leaves] you eager to see what he makes of the rest of the story, and confident that his second volume will be as good as his first."--The New York Times. "A sympathetic, yet clear-eyed portrait of one of America's most controversial writers that also manages to be a sweeping depiction of the black experience in this country and abroad during the first four decades of the 20th century....A near-perfect example of the biographer's art, balanced and thought-provoking."--Kirkus Reviews. "The best biography of Hughes ever written, and in my opinion it is also the best biography of a black American writer ever written."--Arna A. Bontemps. "There can be no question about the importance of Rampersad's biography...without doubt the definitive Hughes biography."--James Olney


--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Replica Books (June 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0735102716
  • ISBN-13: 978-0735102712
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #15,467,562 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
Long before the advent of the 1960's motto of black pride and black beauty, there was Langston Hughes who championed and celebrated black pride and black beauty, both African and black American, at the height racial inequality in the United States.

The two definitive biographies of Langston Hughes are written by Faith Berry, LANGSTON HUGHES: BEFORE AND BEYOND HARLEM, and, the two by Arnold Rampersad's, THE LIFE OF LANGSTON HUGHES VOLS. 1 AND 2. For those able to do it, I would recommend reading Berry's biography first and then DEFINITLY follow it by reading Rampersad two exquisite biographies of Hughes. Reading the two is the only real way to get a complete and accurate picture of Langston Hughes. Both books briefly address Hughes family background which isn't unique to him alone in the black American community as those non-persons of African decent on the outside repeatedly fail to understand. Both books address Hughes' humanity despite of the racism he faced as an extremely confident and proud African-American. Both acknowledge Hughes dislike of those blacks like Toomer ashamed of being black and their African heritage. Both reveal his living through all the moments in early 20th century American history like the Harlem Renaissance and meeting and befriending such figures as Dubois and facing McCarthy on charges of communism while punctuated moments of his life with wanderlust in world travels. Both books address the obstacles and triumphs he faced as being only the second black American to earn a living by writing , the first being Paul Lawrence Dunbar who was also Hughes idol and influence alongside Whitman and Sandburg.
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Format: Paperback
I learned that research can be used as a blessing and a way of connecting readers to life sustaining knowledge. Thank you Professor Rampersad for writing this book! Now I know what a great American Langston Hughes was and why he had so much influence over other writers such as Alice Walker, Ralph Ellison, and Arna Bontemps, Claude Mckay, Dorothy West, and too many more to list.

Hughes was a world traveler and activist in addition to being a innovative writer of poems, essays, plays, and fiction, and a very respected member of the Harlem Renaissance of literature.

He travelled to Russia, Italy, Germany, West Africa, and Cuba while he was poor, young and colored. Hughes lived in Mexico and Paris, Harlem and San Franscisco. He was a correspondent during the Spanish Civil War and personally knew many of the influential artists of his day.

Langston Hughes struggled to figure out if his work should be commercial or radical. He made some mistakes in his judgement of people and politics along the way, but somehow he always recovered. Unfortunately Hughes never did have much money despite all the work he contributed to the American canon, but he lived a magnificent, rich and full life.

What an outstanding American! I think this book should be required reading for all high schoolers. I cannot wait to read Volume II.
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Format: Paperback
"'The Africans looked at me and would not believe I was a Negro': ...
`You - white man'," they said. Repudiating the idea that he was not one of them,
Hughes asserted "the unity of blacks everywhere." Hughes' choice to embrace
his African-American heritage is a major theme of Rampersad's biography.
Hughes rejected his father's path and the chance to pass, to escape prejudice
and win easy acceptance as a member of Mexican society. Poetic inspiration
came from Harlem, from Jazz, and from anger at prejudice. Despite, or because of
its format, with chapters divided by years, this book made riveting summer reading.
Along the way it introduced me to wonderful poetry in the context of the life:
-----
Mercedes is a jungle-lily in a death house.
Mercedes is a doomed star.
Mercedes is a charnel rose. ... ----
AND:
Passionate, cruel,
Honey-lipped, syphilitic -
That is the South.
And I, who am black, would love her
But she spits in my face . . .
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Well researched and well written, especially interesting to me after having just read Langston Hughes's own two volumes of autobiography. I strongly recommend this--with one caveat. I believe Langston was probably gay or bisexual, and I wonder if the author, through the screen of today's social awareness (this book was published in mid-80s) might agree. If so, LH was certainly deeply closeted, but the clues abound. The man was a genius who is well served by this perceptive biography.
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This is, without question, one of the best biographies that I ever read. I learned so much. Of course I learned about the life of Langston Hughes. And, in that context, this book is very well written just standing on its own. But, for me, this is just the beginning.

This is so much more than a biography. This is a story about America in general and also race relations in particular. There are many, many references to other writers and other works. I made a point of studying these people and works. This turned this one book into an entire course on literature and history for me. Correspondingly, it took me a great deal of time to make my way through Volume One. Just one of many examples; there is mention of racial strife and violence when Langston Hughes was a youth. Then there is mention of a poem "If We Must Die" by Claude McKay. I looked up that poem and loved it. I then obtained and read more work of Claude McKay...

In Chapter 4 the author describes a trip to Africa by Hughes as a crewman on a tramp steamer. To me, although a true story, it read like a short story by Joseph Conrad or W. Somerset Maugham. I followed the narrative while reviewing a map of Africa. Really enjoyable... At the same time the description of the injustices of colonialism are vivid and painful.

I have been to college, but have no formal education in literature except the typical freshman year "intro" type course. Having said that, I truly feel that one such as I can easily turn this fine work into a core text book for the equivalent of a college course. It is impossible for me to overstate how much I appreciate this work.
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