Langston Hughes: A Biography Form and Content

Milton Meltzer

Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Milton Meltzer, who had collaborated with Hughes on two historical surveys, writes Langston Hughes: A Biography as a friend and admirer of this literary figure. He presents a simplified narrative of Hughes’s life in order to make the writer a model for young people, especially African-American youths, who are interested in poetry and literature of all types. This point of view is in keeping with Hughes’s insistence upon being viewed as an African-American writer, rather than as a color-blind writer.

Meltzer remains true to the writer’s vision of himself throughout the book, as revealed when this work is compared with Hughes’s own autobiographies, The Big Sea: An Autobiography (1940) and I Wonder as I Wander: An Autobiographical Jour-ney (1956). This biography develops a straightforward, chronological narrative in twenty-three chapters. The book ends with a summary of Hughes’s multifaceted achievement and places him in context for young readers. The introduction explains Meltzer’s familiarity with Hughes, and the acknowledgments at the end reveal the scholarly sources that reinforce and authenticate this personal knowledge. The bibliography is devoted almost exclusively to Hughes’s works but includes four earlier biographies published before Hughes died.

As a biographer, Meltzer maintains his focus on the boy who showed his writing talent early and insisted upon writing as his real vocation, regardless...

(The entire section is 476 words.)