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The Ways of White Folks: Stories (Vintage Classics) Paperback – September 12, 1990

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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage Classics
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (September 12, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679728171
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679728177
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #25,363 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

In these acrid and poignant stories, Hughes depicted black people colliding--sometimes humorously, more often tragically--with whites in the 1920s and '30s.

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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See all 51 customer reviews
Langston Hughes's work is a masterpiece at it's best.
Though there are some elements of satire, the stories speak truthfully and clearly in a non-offensive manner.
Half Apache
Bought this book for a Christmas gift for my hubbie..
Lareeda L. Hickey

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

69 of 72 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Clark Adair on July 17, 2002
Format: Paperback
Before reading this book of short stories, I knew practically nothing about Hughes, other than that he was famous for being one of the first black American writers to develop a style of writing which directly reflected the uniqueness of the Afro-American experience.
Reading this collection, however, introduced me for the first time to the mind of a truly great observer, thinker, and communicator. Hughes achieved something which is very important in the now overly politicized climate of race: he documented not only the confounding and hostile conditions which blacks had to endure in the early 20th century, but he understood the white culture as well. Through the eyes of the shrewd and empathetic Hughes, these stories read not so much as indictments of white racism as they do as the clashes of two dramatically different cultures.
To be sure, Hughes does not pull any punches when describing the hostility, condescension, and apathy of whites towards blacks during the Great Depression. These stories are glimpses into a world when overt racism was not only condoned, it was institutionalized as part of the American fabric. But despite the awful conditions for black people at the time, I never got the sense that Hughes was writing to express any personal rage or contempt for white people. He seems to present each heartbreaking scenario as an absurd juxtaposition between two disparate cultures. Instead of taking the easy road by presenting whites as evil, he makes them out to be a paranoid, anal retentive, soulless lot who don't know how to enjoy themselves. Unlike many contemporary discussions of race which tend to oversimplify the complex problems we face, Hughes's stories paint the clash between blacks and whites with deep humanity, empathy, nuance, and even humor.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By T. Kelley on March 25, 2005
Format: Paperback
The thing that has always bothered me about certain admirers of Langston Hughes is the way, unintentional I guess, some seem to neuter him into being a kind of "minstrel man,"nonthreating to a certain audience because he doesn't challenge them to think to much about certain subjects. THE WAYS WHITE FOLKS definitely disproves this fallacy and proved Langston Hughes could show his teeth.

Without ever standing on a soapbox to shout and point his a finger, here in this collection of short stories Hughes express a range of moods from humorous and bitingly caustic to the tragic showing the various types of ways black and white American interacted with one another during the early part of the 20th century. There is the perennial favorite "CORA UNASHAMED", dealing with a black woman's loneliness and self-awaking in a predominantly white community, SLAVE ON THE BLOCK, dealing with "liberal minded" white dilettantes, "HOME", about a sickly black man who returns home from Europe only to face brutal prejudice, "REJUVENATION THROUGH JOY", a biting satire
that may (?) have been taking a small swipe at Jean Toomer who Hughes lost much respect for after he turned his back to his people to live as white. Then there are the stories "THE BLUES I'M PLAYING" with its hints of Langston's former patron Mrs. Mason, "A GOOD JOB" and "POOR LITTLE FELLOW", all kind of showing the various choices, sacrifices, and prejudice faced in its varied degrees to just get by.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By aegean5 on December 13, 1999
Format: Paperback
I've been teaching the stories from this book at Houston Community College for about five years now and every semester my students affirm for me what I first thought of these stories when I read them a decade ago: they are revealing without being trite, moralistic without being didactic, and sentimental without becoming cliche. "Cora Unashamed" and the tiny "Passing" must be the finest short stories of the Harlem Renaissance. Buy this book. It is not for scholars or students only!
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By contessa malia on November 4, 2004
Format: Paperback
How can an author say so much within the confines of so few pages? Within the parameters of several different stories that paint a much larger portrait?

While these stories were written in the 1930s, and one could argue that things have gotten better because of the Civil Rights Movement, this series of short stories depicts some undeniable facts through the vignettes presented in "The Ways of White Folks". The portraits are stark; the characterizations of cruelties, slights, the numerous examples of sheer ignorance are presented in unvarnished terms.

Whether it's the couple who consider themselves to be enlightened enough to collect Negro art and invite Negroes to their home or the outwardly charitable family who raise the "Poor Little Black Fellow" or the vicious cruelty of the man who sires a child and runs away in stark terror when, a year or so later, he sees the baby who bears his own red hair, Langston Hughes knows exactly how to pack an exquisite, well delivered punch straight to the gut!

Two of the vignettes are particularly poignant. One is a letter from a son thanking his mother for not hailing him and showing him any recognition on a public street. His was the good fortune to be born light enough "to pass". He has used that pass to a better life, a white girlfriend, a good job and, of course, he would lose that if his horrid secret were revealed! Imagine the heart of a mother who would receive such a letter. The message is clear, "I need to deny you so that I can have a life." And the letter goes on tell about his white father, with a white family of his own, who would never claim any of his mulatto offspring.
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