“In this stunning collection of private correspondence to Langston Hughes from his mother, Carrie, Professors Carmaletta M. Williams and John Edgar Tidwell have bestowed a lavish gift on the global audience of a truly global artist. With meticulous scholarship and an unerring sense of biographical proportion, My Dear Boy: Carrie Hughes’s Letters to Langston Hughes, 1926–1938 opens the doors to otherwise unseen dimensions of Langston Hughes’s most long-lived and most intimate interpersonal bond, freeing us at one turn after another from the accumulated clichés and oversimplifications that have masked the inner and outer lives of one of our most complex and accomplished writers.”
—John S. Wright, author of Shadowing Ralph Ellison
My Dear Boy brings a largely unexplored dimension of Langston Hughes to light. Carmaletta Williams and John Edgar Tidwell explain that scholars have neglected the vital role that correspondence between Carrie Hughes and her son Langston—Harlem Renaissance icon, renowned poet, playwright, fiction writer, autobiographer, and essayist—played in his work.
The more than 120 heretofore unexamined letters presented here are a veritable treasure trove of insights into the relationship between mother Carrie and her renowned son Langston. Until now, a scholarly consensus had begun to emerge, accepting the idea of their lives and his art as simple and transparent. But as Williams and Tidwell argue, this correspondence is precisely where scholars should start in order to understand the underlying complexity in Carrie and Langston’s relationship. By employing Family Systems Theory for the first time in Hughes scholarship, they demonstrate that it is an essential heuristic for analyzing the Hughes family and its influence on his work. The study takes the critical truism about Langston’s reticence to reveal his inner self and shows how his responses to Carrie were usually not in return letters but, instead, in his created art. Thus My Dear Boy reveals the difficult negotiations between family and art that Langston engaged in as he attempted to sustain an elusive but enduring artistic reputation.
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