Not Without Laughter by Langston Hughes
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In Not without Laughter, Langston Hughes, the great early twentieth century American novelist, poet and playwright, presents the story of Sandy Rogers, a young black boy in the early 1900s growing up in the Midwest. Hughes aims to tell the story of black American life in the mid-west within two generations following slavery. He sets the story in Stanton, Kansas and focuses on the relations between blacks and whites, the tensions between different philosophies of living with oppression, the subtle and not-so-subtle racist social norms of Midwestern white society, poverty, religion and the possibility of a black person improving his or her position within a white society.
Sandy is a young boy when the story begins. He lives with his mother, Annjee, his aunt Harriet and his grandmother Aunt Hager. His father, Jimboy, travels the country working odd jobs and rarely writing home. His other aunt, Tempy, has married into black high-society that attempts to imitate whites to becomes acceptable to white society. In part due to a lack of education and in part due to direct discrimination against blacks, Sandy's family is very poor.
Aunt Hager is the family matriarch. She is a seriously religious Christian who tries to keep the family in church and well-behaved. She remembers being a slave as a little girl, but her general attitude towards white society is that oppressed is to be endured with love for the neighbor and prayer and forgiveness for the oppressor. She is also largely responsible for raising Sandy, particularly after Annjee leaves to be with Jimboy. Sandy's Aunt Harriett leaves home after a conflict with Aunt Hager and becomes a prostitute, while Tempy will hardly give her family the time of day. Aunt Hager is determined to raise Sandy right and keeps him employed and in school. She pushes Sandy to dream big for himself despite the odds against him and wants him to become a "great man".
When Aunt Hager dies, Annjee cannot afford to move Sandy to Detroit, where she and Jimboy live...