Christina of Reading Through the Night in a note on Twitter told me that the students in her seventh grade class really enjoyed the short story, "Thank You, M'am" by Langston Hughes (1902-1967, USA). I had heard of him but really did not know much at all about him. I turned to my standard first reference source, Wikipedia.Com for some pre-read information. Hughes was a leading writer of the Harlem Renaissance.
"Thank You, M'am" would be a wonderful class room story for 12 year old and above children but it is not a children's story. In just a few pages Hughes really does create a small world in which we can enter and walk around in and feel we understand. I will tell a bit of the plot.
As the story opens, a young man seemingly in his mid-teens, attempts to steal the purse of a woman out walking. He does not succeed in getting her purse but maybe (we do not know and that is part of the power of the story) he gets something much more valuable. The style of Hughes is straightforward story telling. I will quote a bit so you can get the feel for it.
She was a large woman with a large purse that had everything in it but hammer and nails. It had a long strap, and she carried it slung across her shoulder. It was about eleven o’clock at night, and she was walking alone, when a boy ran up behind her and tried to snatch her purse. The strap broke with the single tug the boy gave it from behind. But the boy’s weight and the weight of the purse combined caused him to lose his balance so, instead of taking off full blast as he had hoped, the boy fell on his back on the sidewalk, and his legs flew up. the large woman simply turned around and kicked him right square in his blue-jeaned sitter. Then she reached down, picked the boy up by his shirt front, and shook him until his teeth rattled.
After that the woman said, "Pick up my pocketbook, boy, and give it here." She still held him. But she bent down enough to permit him to stoop and pick up her purse. Then she said, "Now ain’t you ashamed of yourself?"I really liked what happened next in this story and I do not wish to deprive others of the first time pleasure of reading this story. I think, just as I was, if you give this story a few minutes you will be glad you did.
"Thank You, M'am" can be read online .
Hughes is, I think, now a cultural icon, more read or talked about than actually read.