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The Ways of White Folks

4.4  ·  Rating details ·  3,052 Ratings  ·  165 Reviews
In these acrid and poignant stories, Hughes depicted black people colliding--sometimes humorously, more often tragically--with whites in the 1920s and '30s.
Paperback, 248 pages
Published September 12th 1990 by Vintage (first published 1934)
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It is time Langston Hughes’ reputation be salvaged. Too often, he is thought of as the queer, black poet from Harlem. What Hughes is, is a hugely talented writer, period.

My previous encounters with Langston Hughes had been with his poetry, of which I’m a fan. These stories were a revelation to me. By the time I finished the last page, I was emotionally shattered by these stories. That is how powerful a writer Hughes is.


This collection of short stories is a perfect introduction to Hughes’ work. T
Mar 20, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book made me ache inside. Hughes is an excellent writer and his stories are like razor blades that draw fine little lines in your heart. You don't even realize you're bleeding until it's done.
La Tonya  Jordan
Mar 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to La Tonya by: Go On Girls Book Club
Shelves: favorites
This book is a collection of short stories of interactions of every day encounters of black people and white people. From small towns to big cities and overseas, we get a glimpse of how each side thinks of the other. The stories are humorous, sad, truthful, and at times you want to scream. Langston Hughes writing style puts you the reader in the mist of the story. When he writes about Cora, the name sounds simple. But, he magnifies the persona.

The tale of the lonely white woman in the company of
Mar 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After reading this brilliant African-American fiction composed of numerous short stories, I was compelled to reflect on a piece of American history that was not honorable, in regards to the morale of a society. I appreciated the blunt honesty that Langston portrayed within his work in the series of short stories. He presented stories that contained content that has been echoed within Black families for decades. I am grateful for the major progress in this country and hope that we continue to mak ...more
Melinda Coolidge
This book is a definite must-read. I picked it up because I thought it had a funny name, and the leaps and bounds it took beyond my expectations have made me wonder how it has not won awards and how we are not all expected to read this book in school.

I admit that my common conclusion upon reading a famous author's short stories is: "genius." F. Scott Fitzgerald, Kurt Vonnegut - in many ways their short stories impressed me more than their full-length novels. I don't think I've ever read other La
Mar 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"No," said Oceola simply. "This is mine. . . . Listen! . . . How sad and gay it is. Blue and happy -- laughing and crying. . . . How white like you and black like me. . . . How much like a man. . . . And how much like a woman. . . . Warm as Pete's mouth. . . . These are the blues. . . . I'm playing."

I love that line. What a beautifully written, powerful and sad book. I think I shall remember it for a long time.

I'll write a full review this weekend.
Jul 27, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This collection of stories explores themes of race and race relations in the early twentieth century. The issues addressed in the collection will ring familiar to people schooled in the racial history of the United States prior to the Civil Rights Era. Consequently, the character types, plots, and outcomes are fairly predictable. Nonetheless, many of the stories are powerful. Undoubtedly, they were even more so when originally published in the 1920s and 1930s. The themes addressed in the stories ...more
Jun 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
I do not recommend finishing this book while sitting on the bus at the end of a work day, particularly while the cutest little black boy sits laughing on his father's lap in a seat across from you.

This book took me longer than I expected to finish. Often, after a story, I would have to put it down and leave it for a few days. It just isn't possible to move into the next tragic tale, like the nightly news. Happy endings were few. Thank you for this book, Langston Hughes, and fuck you all who mad
What can you say about Langston Hughes? He isn’t a perfect writer as there is no such thing. A man born after the turn of the 20th century, but knew of the plight of the Negroes (his words not mine). These stories are the culmination of the interaction between whites and Negroes, in the city, on the farm, in richness and poverty. It didn’t matter if the characters were white, black, or mixed – whether they lived together or were strangers, Hughes had a profound gift of cultural syntax. The down ...more
Jul 13, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2010
(FROM JACKET)Perhaps more than any other writer, Langston Hughes made the white America of the 1920s and '30s aware of the black culture thriving in its midst. Like his most famous poems, Hughes's stories are messages from that other America, sharply etched vignettes of its daily life, cruelly accurate portrayals of black people colliding-sometimes humorously, more often tragically-with whites.
Here is the ailing black musician who comes home from Europe to die in his small town-only to die more
Jenny Schmenny
Jan 26, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully written short stories that serve a slice of historical perspective to which I don't usually have access. Hughes' language is rich and detailed.

Hughes' depiction of white people is...unfavorable, ranging from condescending rich liberals fixated on the "primitive" expressions of those exotic dark people - to overt discrimination and brutality. Unsurprising, considering the racial climate of America in the 30's...and today. His depiction of black people is appreciative and broad, if a b
Jun 23, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
This short story collection runs deep and Hughes' lyrical, powerful writing style shines often. All the stories are tragic or dark in some way because this collection revolves around the discrepancies, prejudices, inequalities, and culture conflicts between white and black communities or individuals in the earlier twentieth century. I found "Cora Unashamed" and "Mother and Child" to be so well-crafted that I could hear the narrator's or characters' voices in my head.
Aug 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's hard not to love every bit of Langston Hughes's contribution to American letters. Although best know as a poet, I greatly admire his prose too. Two other prose works of his to check out are two of my favorite works of American memoir: "The Big Sea" and "I Wonder as I Wander."
Maleficent (Chelsea) Lord
This should be required reading in schools and it is something poignant for this short month to remember Black History. Langston Hughes shows us very clearly that Black History is American History. Hughes' short stories in this phenomenal work, although written fairly long ago, still--sadly--apply to current issues of varying degrees of racism. Hughes gives the reader many various race-related situations and tells how all the characters (black or white) deal with the situations presented. Many p ...more
Aug 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An outstandingcollection of brilliant, emotionally engaging, poignant short stories about black americans in approximately the 1920's (when the stories were written). The common themes are the relationships between blacks and whites. Many of the stories are about relationships between blacks and white (parents-children, employees, romantic love, and mixed race children). There are also a couple stories poking fun at whites who view blacks indulgently as more genuine or more naturally primitive t ...more
Sep 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
'Dream Deferred' has long been my favorite poem - it's a little strange that it is, because I can't tell you why, but I know that I love it - so a few years ago, I looked it up online and learned about this book. The review said that this was Hughes's only book of prose, and had he continued to write like this, he would have been more popular or more well remembered. Reading between the lines, I translated that as "had he written more like white people, he would have been better."

However, being
Vi Louise
Jul 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Let me start by saying Langston Hughes is one of my favorite authors from this era. However, given the state of the US with the killings and media overdose of the the current presidential election, this book was really difficult for me to absorb at this time. I did complete it as it was a Turning Pages Book Club selection (thanks Dina - I know you didn't know when you selected it) but it was quite challenging. As a result, I've put myself on a media diet (limited access to media and negative pos ...more
Mar 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed reading this. Well, maybe enjoyed is the wrong word, because it's so Goddamn cruel. Most of these stories read like a Roald Dahl adult short story because they're so biting and cynical. Tale after tale of Black suffering, with a clever and cruel twist on each one. It's a little different from the Langston Hughes I learned about in school, the MLK-ified version, and it's jarring because the book is so bitter and hateful, and rightly so. It's deeply flawed and anguished and angry ...more
Sep 14, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some of this Langston Hughes short story collection is quietly, intermittently funny, some of it pointedly uncomfortably funny, some of it sly more than funny and some of it not funny at all. But whether he's writing wicked satire ("Slave on the Block," "Rejuvenation Through Joy"), poignant character portraits ("Cora Unashamed," "Little Dog") or something more mythic and real ("Father and Son"), the great black/white divide is in the back of Hughes' mind and therefore in the front of ours.
May 19, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Based on my research knowledge of American History in the era of the 1920s and 1030s, this book contains stories, lifestyles, social happenings that parallel 'Keeping up with the Jones' whether good or bad, fiction or not. Everything that I have seen in my shorter lifetime, and still am able to see today without blinders on, no matter what my personal beliefs may be. This is a well written book, however.
Ashley Teagle
This is still one of my favorite Langston Hughes books. The stories are short, but they say a lot in few words. I think this book is an excellent example of Langston Hughes' storytelling abilities.

This book is highly recommended for fans of short stories and African American literature.
Mar 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
His is an easy, conversational manner, but the man doesn't pull any punches. Ouch. And Wow. Written about 80 years ago, but just as on target today about race, about people, about society. Powerful writing. Powerful book. Highly recommended.
Tom Romig
May 19, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A sad but enlightening read. These short stories, set in the first part of the 20th century, show in a visceral way the depressing and often dire consequences of racial prejudice in America. Hughes is an engaging writer, a wonderful storyteller.
Brint Keyes
Aug 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic. An amazing companion to W.E.B. DuBois' The Souls of Black Folk. Great short stories that "unearth" the prejudice that was just as openly denied by some people in the early 20th century as it today.
Gary Smith
It makes me sad, and humbled to have read this. A good read, though not very uplifting to see how people treated each other; and still do I suppose.
Sarah Hollars
May 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My new favorite book. So many amazing deep hems of life and live to carry in ones heart forever. The story that hit me the deepest was the first "Cora Unashamed". I want to be more like Cora, true and real. I can't wait to devour more of this author's fiction, I have obviously been living under a rock to have taken this long to fall in love with Mr. Hughes.
Todd Hoke
Sep 16, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: folks who yammer on about the good old days
A return to Langston Hughes, but a darker tone this time around than the "Simple" stories I read earlier. Here Hughes writes of the toxic racism in America, and does so with uncluttered lyricism. Words that cut and soothe at once.

What were "the roaring 20s" to a Black man in America? Limited access. Averted eyes. Lynchings. Whites only. And on and on. This is the canvas Hughes paints upon.

And this excerpt doesn't have a thing to do with the stuff above, but I marked it in my book because the phr
May 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Ways of White Folks, a book of short stories, was captivating. The anecdotes that Hughes writes are mostly of interactions between black and white Americans in the era when Langston was alive. They range from brutal mistreatment, to polite but distant exchanges, to subtle exploitation, to racial favoritism. While I was very interested in almost every story, some of them were not easy to read, as it was an eye-opening reminder about the historical tension between white and black, and how our ...more
May 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The connecting thread in this collection of stories is the relations between white people and black people in the first half of the 20th century. In my opinion, in these stories, it is impossible for the two sides to come together and have an authentic human connection because of the residue of slavery and the presence of Jim Crow. The resignation of all the characters to the way things are is more true to life than many stories I've read which deal with similar issues (major exception to this i ...more
Sep 14, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For someone sitting down with, "The Ways of White Folks," for the first time, it is important to note Langston Hughes received his copyright for this collection of short stories in 1933. By now someone might think, "I've read lots of stories like these," or, "I've read books about this," or, "I saw a couple of these things in movies." Langston Hughes was there before all of this. Langston Hughes was near the head of the line. It is possible to imagine the wallop of these writings in America wher ...more
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Langston Hughes was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, short story writer, and columnist. He was one of the earliest innovators of the then-new literary art form jazz poetry. Hughes is best known for his work during the Harlem Renaissance. He famously wrote about the period that "Harlem was in vogue."
More about Langston Hughes...

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“Bow down and pray in fear and trembling, go way back in the dark afraid; or work harder and harder; or stumble and learn; or raise up your fist and strike-but once the idea comes into your head you’ll never be the same again. Oh, test tube of life! Crucible of the South, find the right powder and you’ll never be the same again-the cotton will blaze and the cabins will burn and the chains will be broken and men, all of a sudden, will shakes hands, black men and white men, like steel meeting steel!” 5 likes
“THEY WERE PEOPLE who went in for Negroes—Michael and Anne—the Carraways. But not in the social-service, philanthropic sort of way, no. They saw no use in helping a race that was already too charming and naive and lovely for words. Leave them unspoiled and just enjoy them, Michael and Anne felt. So they went in for the Art of Negroes—the dancing that had such jungle life about it, the songs that were so simple and fervent, the poetry that was so direct, so real. They never tried to influence that art, they only bought it and raved over it, and copied it. For they were artists, too.” 1 likes
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