Name of Book: Coming Home
Author: Floyd Cooper
Illustrator: Floyd Cooper
Publisher: Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers
Audience: Intended audience is 4-8 years, but could be used with all ages.
Summary: “Can I get a witness?” to “Can I give a witness?” Coming Home tells the story of the life of Langston Hughes. Langston Hughes heard stories all of his life, stories from his grandma, stories from preachers and choirs, jazz musicians and teachers, Booker T. Washington and the Bible, the Brothers Grimm and chickens, trains, librarians, Des’s barbershop and Market Street. Langston grew up in the Midwest during the early part of the 20th century. Though he lived primarily in segregated towns, he attended an all-white school. A prolific noticer of sound—music, story, language, city and country life—Hughes became a prolific mime of sound in story, poetry, prose, and plays, describing African American life and culture. This book would make a lovely confirmation gift as it details the life of one who hears the stories and in turn tells them.
Literary Elements at Work: Coming Home is Floyd Cooper’s biography of Langston Hughes. Using art and language, Cooper places the reader in Hughes’ boyhood home, town, mind, church, heart, family, and consequently, his soul. For example, we hear the clackedy, clackedy, clackedy of the old rusty rail cars as they pulse through Langston’s neighborhood; we see his grandma’s heroes as she dons her dead husband’s bullet-riddled shawl, and hear her tales of the bravest of the brave as she witnesses to the lives of great black men and women—black just like Langston; we feel the trembling and shaking earthquake in Mexico as it cracks Langston once and for all from his father; we sense the hurt and feel the anger as his mother surprises him by dragging him up on stage one evening at St. Luke’s Church; we taste the warm and plentiful food as he peruses the dinner table at Auntie and Uncle Reed’s; we hear and feel the rhythms of the singing and preaching at the Baptist church in Kansas City; and we smell the smells of home as he finally finds rest at Auntie and Uncle Reed’s.
Scripture: The Bible is filled with stories that witness to God’s glory and love. In turn, the Bible is filled with stories that witness to human sin, love, and glory. Jesus witnesses to the name and work of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Isaiah witnesses to the Kingdom of God and the power of servanthood when he tells the story of the Suffering Servant. Jeremiah witnesses to the power of hope when he buys a field. Cain witnesses to the power of envy when he slays Abel. Stephen witnesses to the power of love when he tells the story of Jesus Christ. Pick a story and read it aloud!
Theology: God is a story God who has created us as story people. We know God through God’s self revelation in Jesus Christ, as witnessed by scripture and proclaimed by the church—stories. We know one another as witnessed by scripture and proclaimed by each other—stories. Furthermore, in Practicing Our Faith, Dorothy C. Bass writes, “Through hearing and reading the story of the Jews, African Americans come to understand their own story. Their great and powerful origins on the continent of Africa, enslavement, the suffering of their people, the protests of their prophets, and the present-day yearning for the full justice God has promised—all of these greatly resemble the biblical paradigm of the ancient Israelites, who testified to God as the One who had led them out of the house of bondage.”
Faith Talk Questions:
Ask your child each day to tell you his or her story. For example, say, “Tell me your dreams last night,” while you tell them yours. “Tell me your hopes for today,” while you tell them yours. “Tell me your fears for today,” while you tell them yours. “Tell me what you want for breakfast,” while you tell them what you want. “Tell me your favorite part of your day,” while you tell them yours. “Tell me your least favorite part of your day,” while you tell them yours. “Tell me your troubles,” while you tell them yours. “Tell me your sorrows,” while you tell them yours. “Tell me about your heroes,” while you tell them about yours. “Tell me about your friends,” while you tell them about yours. Write, paint or color your stories.
Review prepared by Kim Lee, MACE, Entering Cohort Fall 20
 Bass, Dorothy C. Practicing Our Faith. Josey-Bass Publishers: San Francisco, 1997, p. 96.
Coming Home by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.