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Put on some jazz, find a comfy chair, and curl up with the work of one of America's greatest poets. You'll find your own Hughes favorites, but we're happy to suggest a few to get you started: "Harlem," "I, Too," and "The Negro Speaks of Rivers." Delve in and discover why Hughes was the poet laureate of Harlem.
Hughes's first novel won the Harmon Gold Medal for Literature. It is a semi-autobiographical piece about Sandy Rodgers, a young black man shunted between relatives and family friends while coming of age in the American Midwest. Sound like anyone you've heard of?
The Big Sea is the first volume of Hughes's autobiography (the second, I Wonder as I Wander, appeared in 1956 and is also a good book). This memoir charts Hughes's life as a young boy under his grandmother's care in Kansas, and the early influences that shaped his view of the world.
Though his poetry got most of the attention, Hughes was also an accomplished short story writer. This collection showcases his trademark wit and humor, literally using laughter to keep the tragedies of life at bay. His flair for the short story earned him the nickname "The O. Henry of Harlem."
Rampersad's two-volume exploration of Hughes's life is the definitive biography of the poet. He charts Hughes's personal and artistic development alongside the tremendous changes that took place in American culture and society during his lifetime. It's not exactly light reading, but for serious Hughes junkies it's required.
Arna Bontemps was an African-American poet, librarian, and scholar. He was also Langston Hughes's best friend. Bontemps wrote dozens of books, mostly biographies and other scholarly studies of black American culture. As a man who lived amidst some of the greatest African-American poets, his selections of American Negro poetry are fascinating.