"Wish The Rent Was Heaven Sent"

by Zoe Pollock

Regina Brett of the Cleveland Plain Dealer debates whether a house Langston Hughes lived in for two years in high school is worth saving:

It's tempting to turn the home of writers into museums to honor the writers, bring in tourists, and preserve the cultural legacy of a neighborhood. But she's visited 55 homes of famous writers in America and found that many of them suffer financially. To do well, they need to be in a good location and have a big operating budget. Last year, foreclosure hit the Edith Wharton House in Lenox, Mass., and the Mark Twain House in Hartford, Conn.

[Anne Trubek, an associate professor at Oberlin College] has a better proposal. Why not honor authors like Hughes by reading their work?

"What if we gave a free copy of his poetry to all kids?" she said.

Her young son was never assigned to read Hughes, so she made him. When she drove him by the house, he wasn't impressed.

"It's just a house," he told her.

While in the house, Hughes wrote the below words, which Brett offers as a fitting coda to a story where the words might matter more than the house:

I couldn't afford to eat in a restaurant, and the only thing I knew how to cook myself in the kitchen of the house where I roomed was rice, which I boiled to a paste. Rice and hot dogs, rice and hot dogs, every night for dinner. Then I read myself to sleep.