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.)


(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Richard Wright said that Langston Hughes lived by a rule of "ceaseless movement," a remark possibly inspired by Hughes's comment to Wright...

(The entire section is 298 words.)

Literary Qualities

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Following the classic pattern of biographical form, Meltzer proceeds in a generally chronological fashion, presenting Hughes's early years...

(The entire section is 282 words.)

Social Sensitivity

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Like many other children of parents who immigrated to the U.S. to escape political oppression, Meltzer has a special appreciation for the...

(The entire section is 284 words.)

Topics for Discussion

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. Why does Langston Hughes become a writer?

2. How do Hughes's travels influence his writing?

3. What is the Harlem...

(The entire section is 78 words.)

Ideas for Reports and Papers

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. What are the most significant characteristics of Langston Hughes's style as a poet?

2. Examine Hughes's political activities...

(The entire section is 98 words.)

For Further Reference

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Dickson, Donald C. A Bio-Bibliography of Langston Hughes, 1902-1967. Hamden, CT: Archon Books, 1967. A basic source for material about...

(The entire section is 182 words.)