Chelsey and Sara discuss Langston Hughes’s 1930 novel: Not Without Laughter, the story of a young boy coming of age in small-town Kansas with his matriarchal family. His mother Annjee works as a maid and cook for a wealthy white family, his grandmother Hager takes in laundry work, and his Aunt Harriet has big dreams of performing. His wandering father, Jimboy makes appearances as does his upper class Aunt Tempy. As a collective, these characters reveal varied philosophies and histories of the Black diasporic experience.
We expected to enjoy Hughes’ use of language and imagery, but we did not anticipate the rich tapestry of history and themes explored in this short classic. We hope you take something away from this spoiler-free episode before, during, or after listening, whether you choose to pick up the book or one of our contemporary pairings. These pairings include complex families in fiction, sweeping historical accounts, and blues-y musings on the power of music.
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Pairings Timestamp: 29:50
A Little Devil in America by Hanif Abdurraqib
The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
The Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby
Perish by Latoya Watkins
Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm by Laura Warrell
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
Links & Things Mentioned:“Done Made Us Leave Our Home”: Langston Hughes’s Not without Laughter–Unifying Image and Three Dimensions – R. Baxter Miller (JSTOR)