A Great Migration novella with a vivid, believable protagonist.
When Langston’s mother dies in 1946, his father feels that Alabama has nothing left for him and moves himself and Langston to Chicago, where Negroes could make a living wage and avoid the severe discrimination so prevalent in the South. A sensitive boy who loved his mother deeply, Langston has spent so little time with his father that he doesn’t really know him. When he becomes the target of schoolyard bullies who call him “country boy,” his loneliness sends him to the George Cleveland Hall branch of the Chicago Public Library, where he learns that African-Americans are welcome, which is different from Alabama. A kind librarian helps him find books—including poetry by Langston Hughes, for whom she assumes he has been named. From snooping into letters his dad has saved, he realizes that his mother loved the poetry of Langston Hughes, which inspires him to read everything Hughes has written. Cline-Ransome creates a poignant, bittersweet story of a young black boy who comes to accept his new home while gaining newfound knowledge of the African-American literary tradition. Langston’s heartfelt, present-tense narration, which assumes a black default, gathers readers so close they’ll be sad to see his story conclude.
A fascinating work of historical fiction that showcases a well-developed, likable protagonist and presents Cline-Ransome at her best. (Historical fiction. 9-13)