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I Wonder as I Wander: An Autobiographical Journey

(The Collected Works of Langston Hughes #14)

4.32  ·  Rating details ·  755 ratings  ·  90 reviews
In I Wonder as I Wander, Langston Hughes vividly recalls the most dramatic and intimate moments of his life in the turbulent 1930s.

His wanderlust leads him to Cuba, Haiti, Russia, Soviet Central Asia, Japan, Spain (during its Civil War), through dictatorships, wars, revolutions. He meets and brings to life the famous and the humble, from Arthur Koestler to Emma, the Black
Paperback, 405 pages
Published August 1st 1993 by Hill and Wang (first published 1956)
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Sean No, but I will let you know. Before reading I hadn't realised that he had a previous autobiography but have since acquired a copy and look forward to …moreNo, but I will let you know. Before reading I hadn't realised that he had a previous autobiography but have since acquired a copy and look forward to reading it later this year. My impression was that I Wonder as I Wander was so intriguing that it stood on its own feet(less)

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May 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
What is it about art that calms the soul and rejuvenates the mind? In times of unrest, art uncovers the truth and displays it with unwavering subtlety. In Hughes' memoir, I read as he observed how art in the form of theatre, dance, writing, folklore, music, and graphics helped snap portraits of the world during a time of social change. Hughes could not sit at the same table with Hemingway in America, due to the color lines drawn, but both he and Hemingway could dine together with writers in Barc ...more
This was an incredibly enjoyable autobiography of one of my favourite poets, Langston Hughes. In the preface, Margaret Walker says about Hughes, “Langston Hughes loved life and all people, and at the same time worked diligently at his craft and art of writing and was one of the most prolific writers in this (20th) Century. His influence on Black world literature is immense.”

The autobiography focused on Hughes’ thoughts and experiences while travelling around the world during the 1930s, and how
Aug 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
"While he was engaged in correcting my manners, since I took his admonition amiably, he went on to say that furthermore he had noticed [us] sitting in the grassy open space in front of the hotel on the ground talking with market women and fishermen, and even playing with their children – or worse, engaged in dominoes with the barefooted wharf workers who hung out on the sea wall! These things, the hotel manager explained, simply were not done in Haiti by persons of our standing. He, the manager, ...more
Feb 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: travel
Near the end of this 1954 account of his world travels from 1931 through 1937, Langston Hughes writes:

I remembered once during my childhood in Kansas my grandmother had given me an apple that had been bruised and so had a brown spot on it. I didn’t want to eat the apple.
My grandmother said, “What’s the matter with you, boy? You can’t expect every apple to be a perfect apple. Just because it’s got a speck on it, you want to throw it away. Bit that speck out and eat that apple, son. It’s still a
Debbie Zapata
Feb 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: saturdaymx
This is the second autobiography written by Langston Hughes. Here he talks about his life in the 1930's. He spent time in Cuba and Haiti, then did poetry readings in the American South, and stayed for a time in California before heading to Russia to take part in a Soviet movie that was to be made there. He eventually rode the Trans-Siberian train across the country to then spend time in Shanghai and Japan, and he was asked to leave that country because the authorities thought he was a spy. (Japa ...more
Jan 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is an unexpectedly dense book, compared to Hughes's fast-paced first autobiography The Big Sea. That earlier book covers Hughes' childhood to early adulthood; this one details his travels around the world and between the wars, from 1931 to New Years' Day 1938. Freshly spurned by his erstwhile patron Charlotte Mason, Hughes takes $400 he earned from his first novel and heads to the sunny Caribbean where he notes the existence of color prejudice not only in American-controlled Cuba but also i ...more
The Scrivener's Quill
I did not know much about Langston Hughes, but this autobiography helped fill some of that gap. I found it to be a humorous and insightful book. He provides a human touch to Russia, a few of the Soviet states, Haiti, Spain and the United States. It was a fascinating time in the US and his books gives the history some interesting spice.
Feb 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-memoir
A important job of a poet should be to speak plainly. This is easy to forget if you look at some of folderol which passes for poetry sometimes in our benighted times. So, when the book club chose a memoir by a poet, I cringed and prepared myself for some fancy writin', which only goes to show how wrong a person (OK, I) can be. This is a wonderful book and a pleasure to read from beginning to end. It is yet another demonstration (as if one were needed) that books often are have all of the advanta ...more
May 04, 2019 rated it liked it
Hughes is a generous and humorous observer of a fascinating age.
Langston Hughes’ autobiography from the years 1931 through New Year’s Day 1938 covers his early years as a professional writer during the Great Depression, in which he travels extensively and observes practices and politics as well as the status of black people throughout the world. He crafts his stories with compassion and humor, and writes in an entertaining and easy-to-read style. From disentangling from an amorous, married Muscovite actress on the Trans-Siberian Express, to touring Japan’s g ...more
May 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, poetry
In the late 1930's Langston Hughes traveled to Russia, across Asia into China and Japan, spent time in California and then served as a reporter in the Spanish civil war. This book is his travelogue of those years. He tells stories of people and places he visited, and it reveals him as truly a global person, always rooted in the lives and experiences of black people all over the world. A simple and easy read, but interesting to those attracted to Hughes' poetry and prose. ...more
Dee Molloy
Dec 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobooked
Beautiful memoir by a poetic genius, of what it was like to be a black man, building a writing career and traveling the world in the era of the Great American Depression, Stalin's Russia, the Spanish Civil War. His trajectory is inspired by an interest in folk traditions of the African diaspora. In this research, has great adventures. He is interested in dances, songs, oral and written stories and other cultural activities such as wakes.

While Hughes seems to enjoy solitude and quiet, he also an
Joseph Reiner
Feb 14, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Wow. Langston Hughes’ amazing account of his travels in a few short years (1931-1938) left me feeling somewhat jealous of this stalwart poet and visionary. Hughes was gifted with the ability to strike up friendships in any corner of the world and his keenness to seek out meaningful connections regardless of his physical accommodations is endearing, to say the least.

From a summer jaunt with a friend in Cuba and Haiti, a coast-to-coast speaking tour in the US, a yearlong excursion in the USSR and
Oct 13, 2019 rated it liked it
I liked this more than I thought I would. I do like travel stories but more about the natural environment. This is more about people. I did learn quite a bit about how things worked in 1930's Soviet Union and about the war in Spain. The part I didn't like was all the name-dropping of writers, actors, and musicians that he met along the way. And that was constant. ...more
Sep 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2020
A lovely memoir by an extraordinary person, this details Hughes' life in the 1930s and travels to the USSR, Japan, China, Cuba, Haiti, and being a correspondent in the Spanish Civil War. ...more
This is actually a follow up to the author's first volume of autobiographical writings entitled "The Big Sea" (which I now want to read as well). The story picks up near the start of the Great Depression with the author casting about for ways to continue to earn a living by writing. A friend and mentor suggests that he could get paid to read his poems at black colleges and churches across the deep South. The tour was wildly successful in terms of generating both income and more importantly, publ ...more
Jul 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
A delightful book. This sequel to Langston Hughes's 1st autobiography, "The Big Sea," opens "in the midst of a depression," following the crash of Wall Street & of his near-family closeness with a wealthy patron. He's just begun to make a living as a writer. Now he takes off for Haiti (by way of Cuba), a reading tour of the American South, Paris, the Soviet Union, Japan, China, & the Spanish Civil War, among other adventures. As biographer Arnold Rampersad observes in his introduction, Hughes st ...more
Jun 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
For someone so well-known for his poetry, Langston Hughes writes more compelling prose than 90% of novelists I've read. This is aided by the fact that he led an incredibly interesting life that took him around the world, as evidenced by the period I Wonder as I Wander reflects upon.

Hughes exhibits a remarkable sense of calm and optimism even when trudging through war zones and authoritarian states, which he does regularly. Perhaps this is because, through all his adventures, Jim Crow continuousl
Sep 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites

I probably picked this book up because of my own wandering and wondering tendencies. I'd never heard of it or considered reading it until I found it on the "new arrivals" shelf in the audio book section of the library. I'd never read more than a few poems by Langston Hughes. I had no idea what to expect.

Since then, I have fallen in love. Langston Hughes is thoughtful and observant, endlessly good-humored and kind. He describes his life as he lives and travels in the Jim Crow south, to
Oct 17, 2011 rated it liked it
This autobiography of a section of poet. Langston Hughes's life was both fascinating and tedious to listen to. The reader was great. I forgot I wasn't listening to Hughes, although I have no idea if they sounded anything alike, but Hughes had a delightful interest in life and the narrator made that clear. Hughes spoke a lot about the color line in the U.S. Where Jim Crow laws are alive and well. But in Europe there is no color line. He was treated like any other person and he liked that. He spen ...more
Bob Schnell
Apr 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Though Langston Hughes is best known for his Harlem Renaissance poetry and fiction, this memoir of his travels in Asia, Mexico and Spain deserves just as much recognition. If you enjoyed Mark Twain's travelogues or even "Blue Highways", this should appeal to you as well. Hughes spends significant time in post-revolution Russia, China and Japan often living hand-to-mouth but always running across fellow Americans, from bohemians to celebrities. It seems he is always among friends, new and old and ...more
Apr 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Probably one of my most favorite books. It goes through a good portion of Langston's life going through the South and then heading off to Russia and through Asia and too California and Mexico and it ends up around the Spanish Civil War which is always interesting. If you like really good autobiographies then this is right up your alley and if you are interested in the soviet union and how black people were treated there as well as other places around the world this is also up your alley. He was ...more
It was truly interesting to see other parts of the world through Langston Hughes's eyes. He noted the similarities and differences in how he was treated in the various countries he visited. In some places there seemed to be very little discrimination based on skin color, but in others, Jim Crowe types of written and unwritten rules were solidly in place.

Langston Hughes was a person with a curious mind. He watched and questioned and explored. It was wonderful to go along with him on his journey.
Nov 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is my favorite book. Period. Hughes had an amazing life traveling, writing, and meeting all sorts of famous people. The way he writes about his experiences are so clear and relatable. This book never ceases to make me laugh and cry. I look forward to the day I might read it for a 3rd time.
Rae Lewis-Thornton
Jan 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir-biography
A Must Read!
Jim Jones
Mar 22, 2021 rated it really liked it
Langston Hughes did more in the 8 years this book covers (1929 – 1937) than most of us will do in our lifetimes. He starts he book at his graduation from college, right after the stock market crashes. He quickly realizes that there is not much point in looking for work. He ends up traveling to Cuba and Haiti, always with an eye on how other countries treat blacks, and then ends up going on a poetry reading/lecture circuit amongst the black colleges of the South. Seeing Jim Crow first hand infuri ...more
I really enjoyed this book. I chose to listen to the audio because it made me feel like I was taking a piece of Langston Hughes' beautiful mind with me while I was wondering through town. The narrator had an smooth, calm voice that fit the narration perfectly. The writing was witty, eye-opening, and thought-provoking. The way Hughes described the settings and the people made me feel like I experienced the world of the 1930s along with him.
This was not a quick read for me, as I found myself want
Jun 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I listened to this as an audio book and had to make sure to take notes every once in a while as I am reading for book club. Langston Hughes covered a lot of ground in the 1920s and 1930s and saw a lot of places that are still difficult for people to travel to. He saw parts of the Soviet Union the Soviets did n't want outsiders to see. He traveled to the South in the US because he wanted to see sharecroppers and cotton plantations. And he saw Jim Crow, and he ran out of money and borrowed gas mon ...more
Eli Pollack
Dec 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
With so many books being published hourly it seems, I often forget how much there is to be found in, if not classics, good books by great authors....who happened to have written years ago.

The book is dated, with the words "colored" and "Negro" as the preferred term, but the themes are modern, as in asking why difference in appearance is so important. And, since Hughes was traveling through the Caribbean, Russia (from Moscow to Vladivostok) Japan, China and Europe (again) the question of race and
Tom Romig
Sep 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
In the second of his two autobiographies, the richly talented Langston Hughes recounts his remarkable travels during the 1930s. He begins with his poetry reading tour throughout America, encouraged by Mary McLeod Bethune, here described in lively detail. His trips to Cuba, the Soviet Union, Japan, China, Spain, and elsewhere took place during the tumultuous decade that saw the formation of the Soviet Union under Stalin, the Spanish Civil War, and the invasion of China by Japan. Hughes vividly ca ...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

Other books in the series

The Collected Works of Langston Hughes (1 - 10 of 16 books)
  • The Poems 1921-1940
  • The Poems: 1941-1950
  • The Poems: 1951-1967
  • The Novels: Not Without Laughter and Tambourines to Glory
  • The Plays to 1942: Mulatto to The Sun Do Move
  • Gospel Plays, Operas, and Later Dramatic Works
  • The Early Simple Stories
  • The Later Simple Stories
  • Essays on Art, Race, Politics, and World Affairs
  • Fight for Freedom and Other Writings on Civil Rights

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