"MY FIRST LIFE": PRESENTATION FIRST EDITION OF LANGSTON HUGHES' AUTOBIOGRAPHY, THE BIG SEA, WARMLY INSCRIBED BY HIM
HUGHES, Langston. The Big Sea. New York and London: Alfred A. Knopf, 1940. Octavo, original green cloth, original dust jacket.
First edition of Hughes' stirring autobiography, inscribed by him, "For P— S—, my first life, Sincerely, Langston Hughes, New York, November 7, 1953."
Hughes' "commitment to depicting and strengthening the African-American heartbeat in America—and to helping others depict it as well—gave him a place of central importance in 20th-century African-American literature and American literature generally" (ANB). In the first of an eventual two autobiographical volumes (I Wonder as I Wander would be published in 1956), Hughes recounts his life from his childhood in Kansas, where his family lived in fear of "the mortgage man;" through his travels in Mexico, Africa and France; to his emergence as a leading voice in the Harlem Renaissance—in fact, the book's "firsthand account" of that movement's "main personalities and events" has "never [been] surpassed" (Smith, Baechler and Litz, 169). Ralph Ellison commended this book as "an important American document… told in evocative prose… The Big Sea has all the excitement of a picaresque novel with Hughes himself as hero." Its "smiling poise," says biographer Arnold Rampersad, is "the poise of the blues, where laughter, art and the will to survive triumph at last over personal suffering" (379). "First Edition" stated on copyright page. Broccoli & Clark III:160. Bookseller ticket.
Text very fresh with faintest soiling, toning to spine of near-fine book; edge-wear with small closed tears to spine seam of scarce very good dust jacket.