Not Without Laughter
Our greatest African American poet's award-winning first novel, about a black boy's coming of age in a largely white Kansas town
When his award-winning first novel Not Without Laughter was first published in 1930, Langston Hughes was already a luminary of the Harlem Renaissance scene, best known for his groundbreaking poetry. Not Without Laughter, which he had begun drafting while studying at Lincoln University, established him as a gifted novelist as well as a beloved poet. At the heart of the novel is Sandy Rogers, a young boy who grows into a young man over the course of the novel, surrounded by his family. His mother, Annjee, works as a housekeeper for a wealthy white family; his irresponsible father, Jimboy, plays the guitar and travels the country in search of employment; his strong-willed grandmother Hager clings to her faith; his Aunt Tempy marries a rich man in the hope of a better life; and his Aunt Harriet struggles to make it as a blues singer. Hughes created a fictional family based on those he had known while growing up in Kansas, painting a vivid portrait of their joys and hardships. Not Without Laughter is a moving account of what it was like to grow up African-American in the racially divided society of rural Kansas in the 1930s.