Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Review: I Wonder as I Wander

I admit it: I picked up I Wonder as I Wander: An Autobiographical Journey by Langston Hughes purely because the title sounded cool, and I recognized Hughes' name. Within a chapter or two though, I was hooked.

I Wonder as I Wander takes you along with Hughes as he travels the globe as a young man in the 1930's. From touring the Southern United States, to distant villages in Soviet Asia, he covers an amazing amount of ground. He does it while almost always broke (of course, this is the Great Depression - everyone is broke) and with great determination.

But, perhaps what I like most about the book is Hughes' casual tone. There's no boasting. No, "wow, look at me!" He's just the kind of friend you'd want to sit with and have them tell you story after story as he risked life and limb in exotic locations.

Along with the excitement, is a perspective on history that's truly invaluable. To see Jim Crow laws through the eye of Black man, or communism through the eye of a sympathizer (though, he claims he wasn't a communist - communists don't do Jazz, and that was a deal breaker for him) was powerful. Heck, I barely knew there was a Spanish Civil War, and now I feel like I've been to the front.

In the end, this was an eye opening, educational and just plain fun read. As travel stories and biographies go, I don't think you can ask for anything more than that.

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