This is the story of a boy, Sandy, growing up in Kansas. He is being raised by his mother and his grandmother and he doesn't have a permanent male figure in his life because his father is always traveling "looking for work." There are two very opposite examples of how to behave in his life. His grandmother and mother go to church and work all the time and his Aunt Harriet, who comes back to live with them, is worldly. She sings the "devil's music," works at the hotel and wears red stockings (oh no). When his father comes back, he plays the "devil's music" and Harriet dances, much to the disappointment of her grandmother. He is also influenced by his own experiences in school and at work. He goes to work in a barbershop and listens to the stories of the men who come in. When he gets an opportunity to make more money working at a hotel, he takes it. It is here that he encounters racism. This isn't the first time but this was a direct experience. Hughes exaggerates their characteristics so we could get a good understanding of what people were like during this time and look at them, not so much as individuals, but what they represent.
This was a good book. It is still relevant today. A lot of the examples of racism in the book are still happening. It was almost like Hughes saw it, even back then.