Book Review: Black Misery

Click for a larger image of Black Misery

by Langston Hughes, Illustrated by Arouni

    Publication Date:
    List Price: $14.95
    Format: Hardcover, 72 pages
    Classification: Fiction
    ISBN13: 9780195091144
    Imprint: Oxford University Press
    Publisher: Oxford University Press
    Parent Company: University of Oxford
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    Read a Description of Black Misery


    Book Reviewed by Troy Johnson


    black misery text
    “Misery is when you heard
    on the radio that the neighborhood
    you live in is a slum but
    you always thought it was home”

    black misery is a picture book, but should not be confused with a children’s book (though children may relate to it).  They book can be read in 10 minutes but pondered over a lifetime.

    Each page features a one sentence “Misery is…” statement accompanied by a beautiful illustration—simple, yet deep on so many levels.  Despite being penned almost 50 years ago black misery has meaning and relevance today. 

    In the sample above, a child hears through the media that his neighborhood is a “slum&”.   The neighborhood where he shoots hoops, and his sisters jump double-dutch is described as a slum — a slum, ghetto, or inner-city, but never described as a home.  The accompanying photo poignantly expresses the hurt, humiliation, and confusion of the young boy.  Given a lifetime of hearing these negative labels associated with not only his neighborhood, but his skin tone, his culture and history, we know this young man has a tough road ahead of him.  We may be on that road ourselves.

    Hughes’ misery captions reminds us that we share something that is unique to African Americans.  As an African-American you may not relate to everyone of Hughes’ captions but I guarantee, you’ll relate to at least a few. 

    Black Power Line

    Related Links

    AALBC.com has compilied a list of our own “Black Misery Is...” captions.

    Read Oxford University Press’s description of Black Misery.


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