The Lonesome Boy Theme as Emblem for Arna Bontemps's Children's Literature

by Joseph A. Alvarez
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Title:
The Lonesome Boy Theme as Emblem for Arna Bontemps's Children's Literature
Author:
Joseph A. Alvarez
Year: 
1998
Publication: 
African American Review
Volume: 
32
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1
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23
End Page: 
31
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English
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Abstract:

The Lonesome Boy Theme as Emblem for Arna

Bontempsfs Children's Literature

In a letter dated March 2,1955, Langston Hughes wrote his longtime friend Arna Bontemps to congratulate him on the publication of Bontemps's latest children's book: "Lonesome Boy is a perfectly charming and unusual book. I read it right off[;] it came in the mail today. I LOVE books that short and easy and pret- ty to read. It ought to make a wonderful gift book" (Nichols 330). Bontemps himself had written Hughes about the book a little more than a year earlier (on December 10,1953): "This is the book I enjoyed writing, perhaps because I did it impulsively for myself, while editors hounded me for my misdeeds and threatened me if I did not deliver manuscripts I had contracted for. So I closed the door for two days and had myself a time" (Nichols 319). Another, perhaps more valid, reason he wrote this particular story about Bubber, a boy so lonesome he plays his trumpet whenever and wherever he can--ending up, as his grandfather subsequently explains, at a devil's ball-stems from Bontemps's own nostalgic feelings about his Louisiana heritage and, more specifically, about his own sense of being a lonesome boy. A careful look at Bontemps's work shows the lonesome boy theme appearing over several years and in different forms. For example, Bontemps wrote a version of the story, "Lonesome Boy, Silver Trumpet," in the 1930s, but it was not published until his collection of short fiction The Old South: "ASummer Tragedy" and Other Stories of the Thirties appeared a few weeks after his death in 1973. And on May 5,1966, he delivered a speech at the New York Public Library which was published in December of that year as "The Lonesome Boy Theme" in 7he Horn Book magazine. There, he states that he has often used the theme, particu- larly to reflect on himself, since he began writing fiction:

With me the lonesome-boy theme has persisted. Consciously or unconsciously, it too reflects influences. I used to avoid the first[-]per- son[-]singular in my writing; for some reason or other it embarrassed me. But despite my efforts-despite careful stratagems-I am afraid I did not always avoid autobiography. Born in Louisiana, carried by my parents to California at a very early age, I suspect that it is myself I see as I look back in each of the guises in which the lonesome boy has appeared since I introduced him in God Sends Sunday, my first book. (674)

Bontemps's use of the lonesome boy theme applies mainly to his children's literature, even though he clearly wrote God Sends Sunday for adult audiences.

While it would be facile to claim that all of his works-either for adults or children-reveal this autobiographical theme, his use of the theme suggests a reason behind the author's interest in writing for the young. A close examination of Bontemps's Lonesome Boy, therefore, can help explain his motivation to

Joseph A. Alvarez teaches at Central Piedmont Community College and is writing the Twayne United States Author Series book on Arna W. Bontemps. He is the Executive Coordinator of the Mark Twain Circle of America and the Secretary-Treasurer of the American Humor Studies Association.

become one of the first authors of the

twentieth century to write books for

young African Americans. It can also

explain some of his disillusionment

with adult books and with the econom-

ics of the publishing world, which was

still dominated by white publishers

and white readers during the 1930s,

even though the Harlem Renaissance

would usher in permanent change.

Bontemps, at least temporarily, was shown to a bad seat during the 1930s. All three of his adult novels- God Sends Sunday (l931), Black Thunder (1936), and Drums at Dusk (1939)-appeared during the Great Depression; none sold well. And even though he proposed several other nov- els and wrote at least one full-length, unpublished novel between 1939 and 1973, when he died, he did not publish an adult novel after Drums at Dusk. Chariot in the Sky (1951), Bontemps's semi-fictional account of the famous Fisk University Jubilee Singers, strad- dles the line between adolescent and adult material, although it was pub- lished as a book for older adolescents. As we shall see, economics as well as politics and autobiographical impulses motivated Bontemps to write for juve- nile readers.

For public consumption, Bontemps justified his turn to juvenile writing from poetry and adult fiction with the claim that his novels were falling on blind eyes. Consider, for example, his "Introduction to the 1968 edition of Black Thunder," made more timely because of the Civil Rights Movement and the riotous explosions of anger in many American cities, including Watts, where Bontemps had lived as a child. Referring to the 1930s, he writes, "I began to suspect it was fruitless for a Negro in the United States to address serious writing to my generation, and I began to consider the alternative of try- ing to reach young readers not yet hardened or grown insensitive to man's inhumanity to man, as it is called" (xxiv).

In a 1970 interview with Margaret Perry, Bontemps claimed that he start- ed writing children's literature because, when he was coming of age, he couldn't find images of black peo- ple) in his junior and senior high school reading experiences. Bontemps repeated this theme when he answered a question about his turn to writing children's books in a 1972 interview with John O'Brien:

I was in no mood merely to write entertaining novels. The fact that Gone With the Wind was so popular at the time was a dramatic truth to me of what the country was willing to read. And I felt that black children had noth- ing with which they could identify.

(13)

Carolyn Taylor provides another dimension to Bontemps's decision to write for children: ". . . he wanted young black people to be provided with carefully researched and docu- mented facts about the richness of their historical past in Africa and America. He believed that only through knowl- edge of this complicated past could black youngsters direct and under- stand their identities and chart their own personal growth" (14). Kirkland Joi~es'sbiography of Bontemps, Renaissance Man from Louisiana, adds a slight variation before echoing Taylor: "He hoped to add a few stories that would help counteract the unpleasant traditions and associations of such stories as Little Black Sambo and Epaminandos. He was convinced that he had something better to offer America's children . . . " (83).

Finally, Bontemps revealed, albeit indirectly, another variation on these themes of his motivation for writing lit- xature for African American children in his 1969 essay "The Slave Narrative: An American Genre," printed as an introduction to his selected Great Slave Narratives. These comments reflect Bontemps's unusual scholastic history ~f being one of a very few African Americans educated in the predomi- nantly white, religiously conservative, Seventh-Day Adventist San Fernando Academy. Paradoxically, the comments also reflect both a powerful and deeply felt sense of injustice and an equally heartfelt nostalgic longing coalescing around his plans in the 1960s to write his autobioiraphy (titled A Man's Name),but left unfinished at his death:

When I was growing up, my teachers, as well as others unaware of what they were doing, gave me to understand that the only meaningful history of the Negro in the United States (possibly even in the world) began with the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. In the half[-Icen- tury since my school days, I have had a chance to observe the tenacity of this assumption. As evidence to the con- trary is disclosed, I begin to suspect that the colossal omissions they per- petuated were more than inadvertent. They were deliberate. Many may have been vindictive. (vii)

No wonder Bontemps wrote novels for adults about slave rebellions (Black Thunder and Drums at Dusk), as well as nonfiction history like The Story of the Negro and One Hundred Years of Negro Freedom. No wonder he wrote Chariot in the Sky and edited Golden Slippers and Hold Fast to Dreams (poetry anthologies for young people). No wonder he wrote about Bubber, the lonesome boy; Slumber, the sad-faced boy; and several other young African American males in their callow youth or in their adolescent curiosity learning about life as African Americans, learn- ing of both their heritage and their sta- tus in a predominantly white society. Earlier, he had publicly bemoaned the lack of diversity in his scholastic read- ing assignmenis and the effect on him as a minority student when he accept- ed the Jane Addams Award in 1956 (for the enlarged 1955 edition of The Sfory of the Negro): "These things I would like to have known as a school boy and as a college student in the inte- grated schools of California are also things I wish my classmates had learned on the same days when we were given the small fragments of gen- erally uncomplimentary information about Negro Americans that was found in the texts and references then in use" (1). In other words, we see Bontemps, over and over again,

addressing the lack of stories, nonfic-

tion and fLtion, about African

Americans. We also see Bontemps's

recognition that all students suffer

when schools socialize students in a

monocultural context. He set about

remedying that no-longer-acceptable

situation through his own literary pro-

duction.

In her 1990 essay on Bontemps's children's literature published in The Lion and The Unicorn, Violet J. Harris asserted that his work in this field is oppositional. That is, its "author, con- sciously or unconsciously, creates a text that contradicts traditional por- trayals of an ethnic, religious, linguis- tic, or gender group" (110). Harris credits Bontemps with "forging an oppositional tradition in children's lit- erature," in part by creating "authentic images" (Ill), and she contends that Bontemps "is omitted from current edi- tions of children's literature texts" and that his children's literature has not received the critical attention it deserves, even though he "almost sin- gle-handedly created a 'canon' of chil- dren's literature that focused, primari- ly, on the African-American experi- ence" (110). As Harris also asserts, in spite of these oversights, some of Bontemps's books remain in print, and others have been reissued (110), most notably Lonesome Boy, which was reissued in both 1967 and 1988 but is currently out of print. (Oxford University Press recently republished Bontemps's and Hughes's Popo and Fifina: Children of Haiti in 1993, which helps to support Harris's contention.)

Although Bontemps publicly stat- ed his political (that is, social and racial) motives for writing, especially for writing children's literature, the economic aspect remains submerged in his unpublished letters and papers. The most concise of his declarations that children's books were more economi- cally feasible to produce than adult books occurs in a letter to John B. Turner (formerly John J. Trounstine), Bontemps's literary agent in the late 1930s and the 1940s. In a letter dated

THE LONESOME BOY THEME

April 9,1945, he takes pleasure in the (Huntsville, Alabama) in the early fact that he is still receiving royalties 1930s, and Shiloh Academy (Chicago) from his 1934 juvenile You Can't Pet a in the middle to late 1930s. The restric- Possum: "Juveniles are wonderful. tive atmosphere-at both Oakwood Every new one sells better than the and Shiloh, school officials suggested rest, and all stay in print and keep he burn his offending books, many by moving. Would that the same could be fellow Harlem Renaissance writers- said for novels." Unfortunately, some finally forced him to cut off his associa- of the books stayed in print tion with the Church. as long as they did because According to Alex

A close

Bontemps agreed to Bontemps, one of Arna's reduced royalties as a con- examination of children, this action dition of their longevity. A caused a rift in Arna

Lonesome B~~

1949 letter he wrote to Bontemps's relationship Thaver Hobson of Morrow can help explain with his father, Paul pudishers illustrates this Bontemps's Bismark Bontemps, who kind of agreement: "Of had become the top-rank-

ivaf ion to

course I want to see YOU ing African American CAN'T PET A POSSUM become one of ~dvventist church official stay in print, and 1/11 agree in California, but Arna to a limited royalty cut if the first authors held on as long as he did that's the only possible of the twentieth- because he needed the

.

way." At the same time, he century to write income to support his tried to keep the percentage family. Even when he as high as possible, as his books for young found relative security in last paragraph indicates: African the library at Fisk "But I do not admire 9 [per- University, where he cent] as a figure. 10 is pret- knericans. worked for nearly thirty

tier." years, he still found it nec-

As a writer, Bontemps constantly essary to write for extra income, as juggled many projects at the same well as to satisfy his creative drive. time, often falling far behind projected deadlines. With its talk of being "hounded" and "threatened" by edi- tors (Nichols 319), the letter to Hughes about Lonesome Boy quoted at the Bontemps's family legacy (on both beginning of this essay alerts us to the the paternal and maternal sides) pressures to complete work Bontemps embodied a strong work ethic and an often felt. In part, his production even stronger sense of family responsi- imperative stemmed from a relentless bility, which leads us back to sense of providing an income for his Lonesome Boy and its autobiographi- family of eight (by 1945): himself, his cal elements. The relationship between six children, and Alberta, his wife. Not the story's two main characters- only did he have the writing projects, Bubber, the prodigious boy trumpeter but also he tried-largely successful-of the title, and his grandfather- ly-to keep a full-time job as either a resembles Bontemps's relationships teacher or a librarian, with interim with his father and, oddly, with his work on the Illinois Writers' Project, a favorite family member, Joseph "Uncle Work Projects Administration initiative Buddy" Ward, his maternal grand- to employ writers during the mother's brother. Paul Bismark Depression years. He taught for three Bontemps had himself been an itiner- Seventh-Day Adventist schools early in ant trombone player in Claibome

his career: Harlem Academy in the Williams's jazz band, but he gave that 1920s, Oakwood Junior College up for a more stable job as a bricklayer-

AFRICAN AMERICAN REVIEW

stone mason after study at Straight University in New Orleans (Jones 14- 15). In the story, Bubber's grandfather admonishes him to watch how and where he plays his trumpet to avoid trouble. However, Bubber is so lone- some that blowing his trumpet hard, loud, and fast relieves his lonesome- ness, even though it also causes him to be careless about his surroundings. He disregards his grandfather's warnings, goes to New Orleans, becomes a famous musician, and, finally, sum- moned by the devil himself, plays at the devil's ball, not realizing what has happened until he finds himself play- ing his trumpet in a pecan tree. Sheepishly, he returns to his grandfa- ther's home and is welcomed with what we now call comfort food and an understanding grandfather who also played at a devil's ball when he was young. The authority figure of the grandfather resembles Paul Bontemps, who became an Adventist minister in California. But he also resembles Joseph Ward, an alcoholic labeled by Paul Bontemps as "don't care folks" (qtd. in Jones 39), in his knowledge of the folk tradition. That Bontemps com- bined elements of these significant fig- ures in his life suggests he yearned for a parental figure with a mixture of seri- ousness and carelessness about life.

One could argue, in fact, that the story signifies Arna Bontemps's early career, with its rapid rise in Harlem during the Renaissance, as an equiva- lent to Bubber's New Orleans success. Bontemps's sojourn in Alabama could be signified by the devil's ball in the story, and Bubber's return home could signify Arna Bontemps's return to his father's home in California to finish writing Black Thunder, away from the scornful gaze of the Oakwood elders. As Charles James points out, however, the roles could be taken back a genera- tion, with Bubber signifying Paul Bismark Bontemps as a youthful musi- cian who learned the major lesson of the book (115n): "When you're lone- some, that's the time to go out and find somebody to talk to" (Bontemps, Lonesome 28). The elder Bontemps "was born in 1872 near Marksville[, the locale of Bubber's grandfather's house in the story,] at a small site known as Barbin's Landing" (James 115). In the story, Bubber catches a river boat head- ed toward New Orleans at Barbin's Landing, and he is known in New Orleans as the boy from Marksville. At least the caller who summons him to play at the devil's ball identifies him as "the boy from Marksville, the one who plays the trumpet" (Lonesome 13).

Other evidence that the story has autobiographical elements includes Bontemps's comments in letters to his editors that the dedication should read "To Constance" (his youngest daugh- ter) and that the location should be Louisiana, with the use of Robert Flaherty's documentary Louisiana Story as a good source for exterior illustrations. Kirkland Jones maintains that the story's autobiographical base lies in

an episode the author during his boy-
hood heard a preacher tell in church. It
was a narrative about a young man
who liked jazz. He awoke one morning
to find himself up high in an apple tree
and announced he had been celebrat-
ing the devil's ball.. . . Actually, the
book is about Bontemps's own concep-
tion of "waltziness": a person hearing
faraway music within himself is so
pleased with it, so engrossed in seek-
ing self-satisfaction, that the end result
is negative.

[ones deduces a substantial concept about Bontemps's philosophy from this story: "Hedonistic self-gratification" isolates a person "within his own heart," creating a kind of self-violation and "shutting out all the rest of experi- ence" (132).

In addition to his declaration that the lonesome boy theme fits his own experiences, Bontemps seemed to treat this story differently from most of his other work. For example, its singular status as a story Bontemps published twice during his life (as Lonesome Boy, separately, 1955, and in The Book of Negro Folklore, edited by Bontemps and Hughes, 1958) and once posthu-

THE LONESOME BOY THEME

mously in the collection of stories titled

(Bontemps, "Sad" 11-12). As Bontemps indicates near the end of this article, the story of J. P. Morgan and his cousins became, with the basics intact but with authorial embellishment, his 1937 children's book Sad-Faced Boy.

The three publications of the "Lonesome Boy" story differ, but not by much, mainly at the very end of the story (and in the titles, of course). In fact, the galley pages of the 1955 edi- tion more closely resemble the version published in The Old South than they resemble the 1955 separate publication of the story. The Table of Contents gal- ley page from The Old South contains this note written by Bontemps: " 'Lonesome Boy' and 'Mr. Kelso's Lion,' both written originally as adult short stories. have been vublished as juveniles by'~oughton ~ifflinand J. B. Lippincott, respectively" (v). The dif- ferences speak to Bontemps's sense of adult as opposed to children's litera- ture. The children's version has a longer reconciliation scene between Bubber and his grandfather, part of it repeating dialogue from the beginning of the story.

Trying to distinguish between adult and children's literature can prove difficult with this story since Bontemps himself commented about its ambiguity. Both the Houghton Mifflin editor and some reviewers also stated that it didn't seem to separate its audiences cleanly. In a letter dated December 9,1952, Houghton Mifflin's Editor of Children's Books, Mary Silva Cosgrave, wrote to Bontemps, "Some of our readers feel that it is too old in theme for the young and too slight for the old. . . .I have been toying with the idea of a book for the 11-13 age group . . . . "Bontemps responded on December 12,1952, in part by speculat- ing about audience differentiation: "I have dared to think that, given a little luck, this might become the kind of story that certain adults might also pick up and chuckle over, especially repentant hep cats and be-boppers. Perhaps after an evening in a night club." A little over a year later, in a let- ter dated February 26,1954, Bontemps expressed a similar sentiment about the manuscript to Cosgrave in a post- script, "Are you hoping, as I am, that LONESOME BOY will have some appeal for the adult audience that reads the juveniles of, say Thurber and

E. B. White? Is there a way to point up this other dimension?"

Reviewers, too, initially noticed this apparent audience ambiguity. For example, Augusta Baker's Saturday Review comments describe a "most unusual story . . . for the sensitive, per- ceptive child and adult" (40). Writing in The New York Times Book Review, Ellen Lewis Buell suggests that the story can be read as a cautionary tale

against investing too much in a private devil (or dreaming about it, at least). world to the neglect of meaningful The addition of the line " 'A little bit of relationships with other people, a trumpet playing is all right, but too warning valid for both youth and much is enough' "suggests Grandpa's adult. Violet Harris discusses the story willingness to encourage Bubber to using the archetypal quest as the gov- continue to blow his trumpet-but erning motif, a motif found universally only in moderation and awareness, not in literature written for all ages, while with abandonment. That seems fair claiming it as "arguably his best for enough, but the final published version children" and declaring it an unac- goes much further in this direction. It

knowledged "classic in children's liter- takes Grandpa into the realm of moralature" (123).

ity, like a priest at confession-stern, but forgiving. It also reiterates the mes- sage, almost to a fault, at least for adult readers. The sentence " 'Raising a boy like you ain't easy' " fits this descrip- Examining the five differentvaria

tion.

status for Lonesome Boy. The variation December 9,1942 (eighteen days after

published as an adult story and corn- her marriage), speaks for itself: "Thank

prising Drafts A and B, as well as the 1973 published version (written earlier, YOU for introducing us to Bubber. We ostensibly in the 1930s)' leaves the have all enjoyed the story tremendous- ly. It has the wonderful free quality of

most to the imagination and to the cre-

ative reading and interpretive &ills of 'pouring itself out' with a tremendous adults. It emphasizes reconciliation sweep and feeling. The writing is beau- and a return home over morals or mes- tiful." Not only is it beautiful, but it

sages. The longer version published as signifies the range of ambition the children's book elaborates but sim- Bontemps set for himself to serve as a plifies the ending and repeats some of catalyst for and to produce authentic Grandpa's admonitory dialogue from African American children's literature earlier in the story. The Galleys version comprising real characters confronting adds only one sentence to the adult real problems, with a healthy dollop of version: a sentence suggested by folklore thrown in as lagniappe, of Bontemps in response to his editor's course, to remind us of its author's request to clarify the after-effects of Louisiana heritage and to point to its Bubber's experience playing for the autobiographical possibilities.

To try to understand Bontemps's (and Houghton Mifflin editors') use of the "Lonesome Boy" theme, compare the five versions of the ending in the Appendix as follows: Draft A (ts.), Draft B (ts.), and the printed text of "Lonesome Boy, Silver Trumpet" (1973); and the Galleys and printed version of Lonesome Boy (1955). (Strike-throughs in this text are strike-overs, using the lower-case letter x, in the Draft A ts.) Appendix
THE LONESOME BOY THEME 29

"Lonesome Boy, Silver Trumpet" (Draft A, ts.)

Bubber nodded again. "I ended up in a pecan tree," he told Grandpa.

"I tried to tell you, sert Bubber, but you wouldn't listen to me."

"I'll listen to you from now on, Grandpa."

"Well, take your trumpet in the house and put it on the shelf while I get you something to eat," he said.

// 11 -'

-~rand~a laughed through his whiskea Bubber smiled too. He was hungry, and he had not tasted any of Grandpa's cooking for a long time.

"Lonesome Boy, Silver Trumpet" (Draft B, ts.)

Bubber nodded again. "I ended up in a pecan tree," he told Grandpa.

"I tried to tell you, Bubber, but you wouldn't listen to me."

"I'll listen to you from now on, Grandpa."

Grandpa laughed through his whiskers. "Well, take your trumpet in the house and put it on the shelf while I get you something to eat," he said.

Bubber smiled too. He was hungry, and he had not tasted any of Grandpa's cooking for a long time.

"Lonesome Boy, Silver Trumpet" (1973)

Bubber nodded again. "I ended up in a pecan tree," he told Grandpa.

"I tried to tell you, Bubber, but you wouldn't listen to me."

"I'll listen to you from now on, Grandpa."

Grandpa laughed through his whiskers. "Well, take your trumpet in the house and put it on the shelf while I get you something to eat," he said.

Bubber smiled too. He was hungry, and he had not tasted any of Grandpa's cooking for a long time.

Lonesome Boy, Silver Tmpet (1955 Galleys)

Bubber nodded again. "I ended up in a pecan tree," he told Grandpa.

"I tried to tell you, Bubber, but you wouldn't listen to me."

"I'll listen to you from now on, Grandpa."

Grandpa laughed through his whiskers. "Well, take your trumpet in the house and put it on the shelf while I get you something to eat," he said. "A little bit of trumpet playing is all right, but too much is enough."

Bubber smiled too. He was hungry, and he had not tasted any of Grandpa's cooking for a long time.

Lonesome Boy (1955)

Bubber nodded again. "How did you know about all that, Grandpa?"

"Didn't I tell you I used to blow music, sonny boy?" Grandpa closed his eyes a moment. When he opened them again, he shook his head slowly. "Any time a boy with a trumpet takes off for New Orleans without telling anybody good- bye-well, sooner or later, one way or another, he's apt to hear from strange people."

"I should have hung up the telephone," Bubber mumbled, feeling ashamed of himself. Suddenly, Grandpa's voice grew stern. "You should have minded what I told you at the first. Blow your horn when you're a-mind to, but put it down

when you're through. When you go traipsing through the woods, leave it on the
shelf. When you feel lonesome, don't touch it. A horn can't do nothing for lone-
someness but make it hurt worse. When you're lonesome, that's the time to go
out and find somebody to talk to. Come back to your trumpet when the house is
full of company or when people's passing on the street. That's what I tried to tell
you before."
"I'm going to mind you this time, Grandpa," Bubber promised. "I'm going
to mind every word you say."
Grandpa laughed through his whiskers. "Well, take your trumpet in the
house and put it on the shelf while I get you something to eat," he said. "Raising
up a boy like you ain't easy. First you tell him when to pick up his horn, then
you tell him when to put it down. Some things he just has to learn for himself, I
reckon."
Bubber smiled too. He was hungry, and he had not tasted any of Grandpa's
cooking for a long time.
Baker, Augusta. Rev. of Lonesome Boy. Saturday Review 19 Mar. 1955: 40. Works
Bontemps, Alex. Interview. Hanover, NH. 5, 9 Aug. 1994. Cited
Bontemps, Arna W. "Introduction to the 1968 Edition." Black Thunder. Boston: Beacon, 1992. xxi-  
mix.  
-. Letters to Mary Silva Cosgrave. 12 Dec. 1952, 8 Dec. 1953, 14 Dec. 1953, 29 Jan. 1954, 26 Feb  
1954. Arna W. Bontemps Collection, Syracuse U Library, Syracuse, NY.  
-. Letter to Thayer Hobson. 29 Mar. 1949. Arna W. Bontemps Collection. Syracuse U Library,  
Syracuse, NY.  
-. Letter to John B. Turner. 9 Apr. 1945. Arna W. Bontemps Collection, Syracuse U Library,  
Syracuse, NY.  
-. Lonesome Boy. Boston: Houghton, 1955.  
-. "Lonesome Boy, Silver Trumpet." Draft A ts.; Draft B ts.; Galleys. Arna W. Bontemps Collection,  
Syracuse U Library, Syracuse, NY.  
-. "Lonesome Boy, Silver Trumpet." The Old South: "A Summer TragedyUand Other Stories of the  
Thirties. New York: Dodd, 1973. 57-70.  
-. "The Lonesome Boy Theme." Horn Book 42 (1 966): 672-80.  
-. "On Receiving the Jane Addams Book Award." Ts. of speech delivered 20 Nov. 1956. Arna W.  
Bontemps Collection, Syracuse U Library, Syracuse, NY.  
-. "Sad-Faced Author." Horn Book 15 (1 939): 7-1 2.  
-. "The Slave Narrative: An American Genre." Great Slave Narratives. Ed. Bontemps. Boston:  
Beacon, 1969. vii-xix.  
Buell, Ellen Lewis. "The Silver Trumpet." Rev. of Lonesome Boy. New York Times Book Review 1  
May 1955: 28.  
Cosgrave, Mary Silva. Letter to Arna W. Bontemps. 9 Dec. 1952. Arna W. Bontemps Collection,  
Syracuse U Library, Syracuse, NY.  
Harris, Violet J. "From Little Black Sambo to Popo and Fifina: Arna Bontemps and the Creation of  
African-American Children's Literature." Lion and the Unicorn 14 (1990): 108-27.  
James, Charles L. "Arna Bontemps's Creole Heritage." Syracuse University Library Courier 30  
(1 995): 91 -1 15.  
Jones, Kirkland C. Renaissance Man from Louisiana: A Biography of Arna Wendell Bontemps.  
Westport: Greenwood, 1992.  
Nichols, Charles H., ed. Arna Bontemps-Langston Hughes Letters: 1925-1967. 1980. New York:  
Paragon, 1990.  
O'Brien, John. "Arna Bontemps." Interviews with Black Authors. Ed. O'Brien. New York: Liveright,  
1973. 2-1 1.  
Perry, Margaret. Interview with Bonternps. 11 Dec. 1970. New Haven, CT. Tape in Arna W.  
Bontemps Collection, Syracuse U Library, Syracuse, NY.  
Taylor, Carolyn. Discussion Guide. Profiles of Black Achievement: Arna Bontemps/Aaron Douglas.  
Sound Filmstrip. New York: Guidance Associates, 1973.  
THE LONESOME BOY THEME  

tions on the ending reproduced Quoting at length from Bontemps's in the Appendix shows that Bontemps Houghton Mifflin editor provides a fit- worked closely with his editor at ting end this essay theHoughton Mifflin to tailor the story to tance of the "Lonesome Boy" theme, as reach the early adolescent reading well as the story itself1 in Bontemps's audience. Such an analysis might also literature. Silvahelp to support Harris's claim to classic Cosgrave's of

The 0id South: "ASummer Tragedy" and Other Stories of the Thirties (as "Lonesome Boy, Silver Trumpet") sug- gests his affinity for it. The other two stories-both published in the 1930s and in The Old South-"A Summer Tragedy" and "Saturday Night" (pub- lished with two different subtitles), do not quite rival Bontemps's publication frequency of Lonesome Boy and do not involve parent-child relationships. (Neither space nor affinity allows a dis- cussion of either "A Summer Tragedy" or "Saturday Night" within the context of Bontemps's children's literature.) And apparently Bontemps identified himself as the "Sad- Faced Author," the title of another Horn Book magazine article about his children's litera- ture published in 1939. Aside from the title, however, he did not strongly identify himself with the sad-faced type. Instead he traced the origin of his Sad-Faced Boy characters (Slumber, Rags, and Willie) to J. P. Morgan and two of his three cousins, real children in Alabama who sang for Bontemps and his family. After hearing stories about Harlem from Bontemps, they journeyed north to Harlem to enjoy moderate success as street musicians, only to return to their home relieved to be back after their urban adventure turned sour when Morgan had his new shoes stolen while wearing them

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