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Uses humor and satire to reflect the feelings and experiences of Black children growing up during the turbulent 1960s
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Langston Hughes was born in Joplin, Missouri, in 1902. He traveled all over the world--to Europe, Africa, Mexico, the Soviet Union--but his heart and home were in Harlem, where he was one of the most versatile writers of the artistic movement known as the Harlem Renaissance. Though known primarily as a poet, Hughes also wrote plays, essays, novels, short stories, and books for children. His writing is characterized by simplicity and realism and, as he once said, "people up today and down tomorrow, working this week and fired the next, beaten and baffled, but determined not to be wholly beaten."
Gr. 6-12. The title is ironic. This small 1969 volume of captions and pictures has been reissued by the Opie Library of Children's Literature, but it's not really a children's book. As Robert O'Meally says in his excellent afterword, these are some of the kinds of jokes blacks tell among themselves. Teens interested in the civil rights movement, then and now, will get Hughes' wry, understated wit, his lyrical honesty about bigotry and hard times. Some things are straight from the 1960s ("Misery is when you find out your bosom buddy can go in the swimming pool but you can't"). Some things haven't changed ("Misery is when the taxicab won't stop for your mother and she says a bad word"). There's a rueful candor about private feelings ("Misery is when you heard on the radio that the neighborhood you live in is a slum but you always thought it was home"). Stereotypes are mocked all around: What if you do like watermelon? Great for group discussion of values, these scenarios make you grin, even as you wince at their painful truths. Hazel Rochman
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