Book Review: Black Misery
by Langston Hughes, Illustrated by Arouni
Publication Date: Jul 21, 1994
List Price: $14.95
Format: Hardcover, 72 pages
Imprint: Oxford University Press
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Parent Company: University of Oxford
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Book Reviewed by Troy Johnson
“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.
AALBC.com has compilied a list of our own “Black Misery Is...” captions.