Finding Langston

by Lesa Cline-Ransome (2018)

Read to Them is excited to offer Finding Langston as an opportunity to explore a richly written story that weaves together The Great Migration, The Chicago Renaissance, the poetry of Langston Hughes, loss and grief, bullying, and the power of poetry in just over 100 pages.

It’s a mystery as to how an author can seamlessly broach a half-dozen subjects so well and so tightly, but Lesa Cline-Ransome does just that. There are brief chapters in a brief book with simple, but very rich word choices…

“It’s like our faith got buried right along with Mama and now
it’s covered with dirt and a tombstone back in Alabama.”

As if grappling with the death of his mother, a distant father, and mourning his beloved Alabama isn’t hard enough, the young Langston (the protagonist, not the poet) has to artfully dodge the schoolyard bullies and unexpectedly finds himself in an unknown building—the library. The George Cleveland Hall Branch of the Chicago Public Library to be exact.  This is in 1946—a time when Black people were not welcomed in many libraries. Langston not only finds a home in this library, but also a sense of peace, a love of reading, a poet who shares his first name, and most importantly, himself.

Cline-Ransome takes poetry that may seem intimidating and makes it relevant and inspiring.  Readers will experience it as young Langston does, as a narrative window into his own interior life…

Folks, I come up North
Cause they told me de North was fine.
I come up North
Cause they told me de North was fine
Been up here six months —
I’m about to lose my mind.

Read to Them‘s suite of activities will allow readers the opportunity to take an exploratory dive into the culture of 1940s Chicago, to try their hand at poetry, and to understand the evolution of a parent/child relationship.

Not sure how to celebrate Black History Month or Poetry Month? Finding Langston is the perfect answer!  But don’t box this book into just those months.  It’ll be an enriching reading experience at any time of the year.

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