In honor of his centennial year, this 15th volume in The Collected Works of Langston Hughes reprints short fiction from three previous titles by the versatile writer, as well as uncollected stories dating back as far as his high-school days in Ohio. Ways of White Folks, first published in 1934 after Hughes returned from a year in the Soviet Union, reflects a tough, militant stance toward racism and liberal condescension. Laughing to Keep from Crying, published nearly 20 years later, offers a mellower view of the same issues, with humor and irony supplanting the strident tone of the earlier book. Something in Common (1963) largely reprinted works from the other two collections, but the new stories cover material seldom discussed at the time, including homosexuality and the failure of educated blacks to liberate themselves from repressive thinking. Hughes biographer Arnold Rampersad provides a chronology and an introduction.
A welcome reminder of the restless spirit and formidable talent that helped shape the face of African-American literature in the 20th century.