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Not Without Laughter

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | Not Without Laughter.pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    Langston Hughes(Author),Maya Angelou(Introduction)

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Although best known as a poet and pioneer of the Harlem Renaissance movement, Langston Hughes proves himself one of modern literature’s most revered and versatile African-American authors with Not Without Laughter, a powerful classic novel.

This is a moving portrait of African-American family life in 1930s Kansas, following young Sandy Rogers as he comes of age. Sandy’s mother, Annjee, works as a housekeeper for a rich white family, while his father, traverses the country in search of work.

Not Without Laughter is a moving examination of growing up in a racially divided society. A rich and important work, Hughes deftly echoes the black American experience with this novel.

This is another in the new Scribner Paperback Fiction line. Poet Hughes made the jump to fiction with this 1930 first novel of an African American boy's coming of age in a small Kansas town.Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. Langston Hughes (1902–1967) was born in Joplin, Missouri, and lived much of his life in Harlem, New York. As one America’s most cherished chroniclers of the black experience, known for his work during the Harlem Renaissance, Hughes’s work was constantly groundbreaking throughout his forty-six-year career. His poetry about the ocean and the symbolism that surrounds it stems from his travels through Africa and Europe working as a seaman.

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Review Text

  • By Robin Friedman on June 8, 2010

    "There ain't no room in this world fo' nothing' but love, Sandy chile. That's all they's room fo' -- nothin' but love."In the above passage, Aunt Hager Williams gives her thoughts on the slavery she experienced in her youth to her young grandson, Sandy (James) Williams in the climactic chapter of Langston Hughes's remarkable coming-of age novel "Not Without Laughter" (1930). The novel offers a picture of African American life in a fictitious Kansas town, modelled on Lawrence, beginning in about 1911 and concluding with the end of WW I in 1918. "Nothing but Love" is a fitting summation of the book as a whole.Hughes' partially autobiographical novel tells the story of young Sandy Williams between the ages of 9 -- 16, and Sandy and his family are the main characters. The boy's aging grandmother, Hager, is the titular head of the family and inspires the boy with her ambitions for him to make something of his life. She earns money for the family by washing clothes for white people. Hagar's daughter and Sandy's mother, Anjee, works as a domestic for a demanding white family. She is married to Jimboy, an itinerant guitarist and singer who spends little time at home but rather wanders throughout the country looking for work. Hager has two other daughters. Tempy Siles has made a successful marriage, moved into the black middle class, and tends to look down upon the rest of the family. The young daughter, Harriet, has a restless streak. She dislikes white people and religion and spends a great deal of time singing and dancing in disreputable parts of the town. After a time as a prostitute, she succeeds as a blues singer.The novel tells the story of how Sandy learns from his family and from other largely African American people in the town and, in the final scenes of the book, in Chicago. The book and its plot begin slowly, but I soon was engaged with the lives of the characters. Hughes gives a rare realistic and enthusiastic look at African American life during the early 20th Century in its variety, difficulty, and hope. There is, of course, great emphasis on the pervasive discrimination African Americans suffered in the American midwest, as most of the institutions in Kansas enforced rigid segregation and discrimination and most of the whites had racist attitudes. But there was much hope and strength in the African American community as well. Sandy receives his greatest inspiration from the strong Aunt Hager who speaks in dialect, as do many of the characters, is deeply religious, and wants Sandy to make a contribution to uplift the race. Hager is an admirer of Booker Washington. Sandy is exposed to the world of learning from Tempy, who raises the boy after Anjee leaves the family to live with her wandering hustand and after Hager dies. Tempy is an admirer of DuBois, but she presses Sandy in the direction of rejecting the African American culture which the young boy, and Hughes, are unwilling to do.Besides the emphasis on educational uplift, there is much in Sandy's world of guitar playing, music, the blues, and poetry, as songs such as "St. Louis Blues", "Easy Rider" "John Henry" and many more get a great deal of attention and quotation. The book is in the language of poetry and dialect. Scenes take place in dance halls, barber shops, carnivals, and pool halls, as well as in schools, churches and the home. The town "bottoms" -- the home of prostitutes and gamblers -- is described as the only location in the community that is free from race discrimination. The book describes the importance, and frequent repression of sexuality, in the budding awareness of Sandy, and in the experiences of the other characters. Hughes offers a complex and varied perspective on African American life. He emphasizes the importance of knowledge and empowerment. He also treasures the distinctive features of African American life in its poetry, dance, and music and emphasis on family. He suggests to me that African American life can develop its own culture without merely adopting that of white America. The overall tone is one of laughter, love, and forgiveness.Hughes' novel won the Harmon Gold Medal in 1930, a prize awarded between 1925 -- 1930 for high achievement in African American art and literature. The novel is not as well known today as it deserves to be. It is a precious story of African American life and of growing up.Robin Friedman

  • By Eric Anderson on August 2, 2002

    Despite his considerable output of poetry, short stories and autobiographical work, this is Langston Hughes' only novel. It is the tremendously crafted story of Sandy, a black child of the 1920s in rural Kansas. In poignant tightly written chapters, Hughes' depicts various events in Sandy's life often slipping into the perspective of those closest to him. Sandy lives most his life with his strong-willed and deeply religious grandmother Aunt Hager. She is a benevolent woman who desires peaceful racial relations despite the overwhelming amount of racism and discrimination professed by both white and black community members. Sandy's mother Annjee is a loving and hard working woman eternally devoted to her husband Jimboy who is a good hearted man constantly on the move. Sandy's aunt Tempy is a well-off woman trying to immerse herself in white society and denigrating her own race in the process. His other aunt Harriett is a wilful woman who turns from the church for a different kind of existence. Through these expertly drawn characters, Sandy views their examples and he must make the choices that will effect his future. The novel is a tremendous chronicle of the struggle of a family to survive financially. It gives accounts of the psychological dilemma created by growing in a racially divided society and the diffuse joy in life that can be found even in troubling circumstances.Maya Angelou wrote of Not Without Laughter: "This book was written when preachers had to be poets and poets were preachers, because they needed to be available to all the people all the time." The messages this novel gives are not subtle. But, through its varied perspectives and eloquently written prose, it envelops the issues it preaches with emotionally edifying ideas. It leaves the reader with a feeling of deep connection to all the characters, particularly the beautiful Sandy in whom we invest our hope and trust to fulfil his potential to become a good, intelligent and strong man who does not feel limited by his racial heritage despite any restrictions society may attempt to place for him. Although it may be a shame that Hughes never wrote another novel as he aptly demonstrated his skill in this one, Not Without Laughter stands as shining work be a skilled artist.

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