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Jonah's Gourd Vine

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The first novel by the noted black novelist, folklorist, and anthropologist. Originally published in 1934, it was praised by Carl Sandburg as "a bold and beautiful book, many a page priceless and unforgettable."

Author Biography: In her award-winning autobiography, Dust Trackson a Road (1942), Zora Neale Hurston claimed to have been born inEatonville, Florida, in 1901. She was, in fact, born in Notasulga, Alabama, onJanuary 7, 1891, the fifth child of John Hurston (farmer, ...

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1990 Trade paperback New. No dust jacket as issued. NEW.. Trade paperback (US). Glued binding. 240 p. Audience: General/trade.

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New York, NY 1990 Trade paperback New. Trade paperback (US). Glued binding. 240 p. *****PLEASE NOTE: This item is shipping from an authorized seller in Europe. In the event ... that a return is necessary, you will be able to return your item within the US. To learn more about our European sellers and policies see the BookQuest FAQ section***** Read more Show Less

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Jonah's Gourd Vine

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Overview

The first novel by the noted black novelist, folklorist, and anthropologist. Originally published in 1934, it was praised by Carl Sandburg as "a bold and beautiful book, many a page priceless and unforgettable."

Author Biography: In her award-winning autobiography, Dust Trackson a Road (1942), Zora Neale Hurston claimed to have been born inEatonville, Florida, in 1901. She was, in fact, born in Notasulga, Alabama, onJanuary 7, 1891, the fifth child of John Hurston (farmer, carpenter, and Baptistpreacher) and Lucy Ann Potts (school teacher). The author of numerous books,including Their Eyes Were Watching God, Jonah's Gourd Vine, Mulesand Men, and Moses, Man of the Mountain, Hurston had achieved fameand sparked controversy as a novelist, anthropologist, outspoken essayist,lecturer, and theatrical producer during her sixty-nine years. Hurston's finestwork of fiction appeared at a time when artistic and politicalstatements—whether single sentences or book-length fictions—were peculiarlyconflated. Many works of fiction were informed by purely political motives;political pronouncements frequently appeared in polished literary prose. AndHurston's own political statements, relating to racial issues or addressingnational politics, did not ingratiate her with her black male contemporaries.The end result was that Their Eyes Were Watching God went out of printnot long after its first appearance and remained out of print for nearly thirtyyears. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., has been one among many to ask: "How couldthe recipient of two Guggenheims and the author of four novels, a dozen shortstories, two musicals, two books on blackmythology, dozens of essays, and aprizewinning autobiography virtually 'disappear' from her readership for threefull decades?"

That question remains unanswered. The fact remains thatevery one of Hurston's books went quickly out of print; and it was only throughthe determined efforts, in the 1970s, of Alice Walker, Robert Hemenway (Hurston'sbiographer), Toni Cade Bambara, and other writers and scholars that all of herbooks are now back in print and that she has taken her rightful place in thepantheon of American authors.

In 1973, Walker, distressed that Hurston's writings hadbeen all but forgotten, found Hurston's grave in the Garden of Heavenly Rest andinstalled a gravemarker. "After loving and teaching her work for a numberof years," Walker later reported, "I could not bear that she did nothave a known grave." The gravemarker now bears the words that Walker hadinscribed there:

ZORA NEALE HURSTON
GENIUS OF THE SOUTH
NOVELIST FOLKLORIST ANTHROPOLOGIST
(1891-1960)

In Brief
Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) was a novelist, folklorist, and anthropologist whose fictional and factual accounts of black heritage are unparalleled. She Is the author of many books, including Their Eyes Were Watching God, Dust Tracks on a Road, Tell My Horse, and Mules and Men.

The first novel by the noted Black novelist, folklorist, and anthropologist.

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Editorial Reviews

Margaret Wallace
Jonah's Gourd Vine can be called without fear of exaggeration the most vital and original novel about the American Negro that has yet been written by a member of the Negro race. -- Books of the Century; New York Times review, May 1934
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060916510
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/28/1990
  • Series: Harper Perennial
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 8.12 (h) x 0.62 (d)

Meet the Author

Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston, the author of Their Eyes Were Watching God, was deemed "one of the greatest writers of our time" by Toni Morrison. With the publication of Lies and Other Tall Tales, The Skull Talks Back, and What's the Hurry, Fox? new generations will be introduced to Hurston's legacy. She was born in Notasulga, Alabama, in 1891, and died in 1960.

Biography

During the 1920s, African-American culture in the United States received an exhilarating shot in the arm in the era known as the Harlem Renaissance. For the first time, black American art, music, and literature was being taken seriously among the intelligentsia as a significant force in contemporary culture. At the front of that movement were several writers, including Zora Neale Hurston.

Hurston's work reflected the liberation and experimentation of post-war America. She published stories and co-founded the groundbreaking journal Fire! with poet Langston Hughes and novelist Wallace Thurman. By the ‘30s, Hurston was a bestselling writer, but with the Renaissance on the wane and a new era of politics, economic depression, and the "social realism" movement, Hurston's once glorious literary career was running into dire straits. She would end her life destitute, practically forgotten, buried in an unmarked grave in Florida. However, a resurgence of interest in her work during the 1970s and the tireless work of writer Alice Walker would help reestablish Hurston in her rightful place as one of America's greatest and most influential writers.

Born in Eatonville, Florida, in 1891 to a father who was a Baptist preacher, Hurston was well-versed from birth in the dynamics of the Southern black experience. She brought that keen vision to her writing and published her first story in the Howard University literary magazine while attending the school in 1921. Still, it was not until Hurston moved to New York City in 1925 that she really began to make waves on the literary scene. Her writing was characterized by its unflagging honesty and strength, qualities that Hurston herself exuded. She often ruffled feathers by refusing to adhere to the constricting gender conventions prevalent at the time. This strength and self-confidence was already apparent in the writer's very first works. Her debut novel Jonah's Gourde Vine was praised by The New York Times as "the most vital and original novel about the American Negro that has yet been written by a member of the Negro race." Her second was a bona fide classic, Mules and Men, a compendium of African American folk tales, songs, and maxims that drew on Hurston's extensive studies in Anthropology.

By the time Hurston published her signature work Their Eyes Were Watching God, the freestyle experimentalism of the Harlem Renaissance was being increasingly overcast by the Great Depression. As a result, a backlash ensued. Their Eyes Were Watching God, which told of a woman named Janie Crawford who goes through three marriages to separate men as she struggles to realize herself, was too steeped in the experimentalism of the Renaissance to please critics. Furthermore, her portrayal of a black woman's search for personal liberation was too much for many black men to stomach. Richard Wright, the acclaimed author of Native Son, even dismissed Their Eyes Were Watching God for not being "serious fiction." Today, such criticism may seem absurd, or at the very least, incredibly short-sighted, but at the time, Hurston's daring prose was not in vogue amongst the social realists.

Their Eyes Were Watching God, instead, displays a true structural adventurousness, splitting between the eloquence of the narrative voice and the idiomatic, ungrammatical dialogue of the black, southern characters. While works of the social realism movement were easily categorized by their left-wing politics and gritty delivery, Their Eyes Were Watching God was less simple to pigeonhole. It is at once a product of the Harlem Renaissance, an example of Southern literature along the lines of Faulkner, and a work of feminist literature. Consequently, the novel was criticized for being out of step with the times, and it went out of print very shortly after being published, leading to the collapse of Hurston's career and her standing as a significant literary figure.

Hurston would die in 1960, back in Florida, destitute, forgotten. Her books long unavailable, her death barely registered. She would not return to the public eye until 1975, when Alice Walker published an essay titled "In Search of Zora Neale Hurston" in Ms. magazine. Along with other writer including Robert Hemenway and Tony Cade Bambara, Walker went on a crusade to revitalize Hurston's career fifteen years after the writer's death.

When Their Eyes Were Watching God was finally republished, it was reevaluated as a classic. Today, the novel is required reading in universities all over the country, and Hurston is widely acknowledged as one of the first great African-American women writers. As a final tribute to her idol, Walker also traveled to Florida where Hurston is buried and placed a marker on her grave, a long-overdue tribute to a great American writer reading with beautiful simplicity: "Zora Neale Hurston: Genius of the South."

Good To Know

Hurston's earliest work was a comedic play called Mule Bone, which she co-wrote with Langston Hughes. However, the play would not be performed until 1991 due to an arduous legal battle that also brought an untimely end to the friendship between Hurston and Hughes.

Spike Lee's audacious debut film She's Gotta Have It has been viewed by some as a hip adaptation of Their Eyes Were Watching God, and the fact that the film opens with a quotation from Zora Neale Hurston may prove such theories correct.

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    1. Date of Birth:
      January 7, 1891
    2. Place of Birth:
      Eatonville, Florida
    1. Date of Death:
      January 28, 1960
    2. Place of Death:
      Fort Pierce, Florida
    1. Education:
      B.A., Barnard College, 1928 (the school's first black graduate). Went on to study anthropology at Columbia University.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


God was grumbling his thunder and playing the zig-zag lightning thru his fingers.

Amy Crittenden came to the door of her cabin to spit out a wad of snuff. She looked up at the clouds.

"Ole Massa gwinter scrub floors tuhday," she observed to her husband who sat just outside the door, reared back in a chair. "Better call dem chaps in outa de cotton patch."

"Tain't gwine rain," he snorted, "you always talkin' more'n yuh know."

just then a few heavy drops spattered the hard clay yard. He arose slowly. He was an older middle-age than his years gave him a right to be.

"And eben if hit do rain," Ned Crittenden concluded grudgingly, " ef dey ain't got sense 'nough tuh come in let 'em git wet."

"Yeah, but when us lef' de field, you told 'em not to come till you call 'em. Go 'head and call 'em 'fo' de rain ketch 'em. "

Ned ignored Amy and shuffled thru the door with the chair, and somehow trod on Amy's bare foot. " 'Oman, why don't you git outa de doorway? Jes contrary tuh dat. You needs uh good head stompin', dass whut. You sho is one aggervatin' 'oman.

Amy flashed an angry look, then turned her face again to the sea of wind-whipped cotton, turned hurriedly and took the cow-horn that hung on the wall and placed it to her lips.

"You John Buddy! You Zeke! You Zachariah! Come in!"

From way down in the cotton patch, " Yassum! Us comin'! "

Ned shuffled from one end of the cabin to the other, slamming to the wooden shutter of the window, growling between his gums and his throat the while.

The children came leaping in, racing and tumbling in tense, laughing competition-the three smallerones getting under the feet of the three larger ones. The oldest boy led the rest, but once inside he stopped short and looked over the heads of the others, back over the way they had come.

" Shet dat door, John!" Ned bellowed, "you ain't got the sense you wuz borned wid."

Amy looked where her big son was looking. "Who dat comin' heah, John?" she asked.

"Some white folks passin' by, mama. Ahm jes' lookin' tuh see whar dey gwine."

"Come out dat do'way and shet it tight, fool! Stand dere gazin' dem white folks right in de face!" Ned gritted at him. "Yo' brazen ways wid dese white folks is gwinter git you lynched one uh dese days."

"Aw 'tain't," Amy differed impatiently, "who can't look at ole Beasley? He ain't no quality no-how."

" Shet dat door, John!" screamed Ned.

"Ah wuzn't de last one inside," John said sullenly.

"Don't you gimme no word for word," Ned screamed at him. "You jes' do lak Ah say do and keep yo' mouf shet or Ah'll take uh trace chain tuh yuh. Yo' mammy mought think youse uh lump uh gold 'cause you got uh IN' white folks color in yo' face, but Ah'Il stomp yo' guts out and dat quick! Shet dat door!"

He seized a lidard knot from beside the fireplace and limped threateningly towards John.

Amy rose from beside the cook pots like a black lioness.

"Ned Crittenden, you raise dat wood at mah boy, and you gointer make uh bad nigger outa me."

"Dat's right," Ned sneered, "Ah feeds 'im and clothes 'im but Ah ain't tuh do nothin' tuh dat IN' yaller god cep'n wash 'im UP."

"Dat's uh big ole resurrection lie, Ned. Uh slew-foot, dragleg lie at dat, and Ah dare yuh tuh hit me too. You know Ahm uh fightin' dawg and mah hide is worth money. Hit me if you dare! Ah'll wash yo' tub uh 'gator guts and dat quick."

"See dat? Ah ain't fuh no fuss, but you tryin' tuh start uh great big ole ruction 'cause Ah tried tuh chesstize dat youngun.

"Naw, you ain't tried tuh chesstize 'im nothin' uh de kind. Youse tryin' tuh fight 'im on de sly. He is jes' ez obedient tuh you and jes' ez humble under yuh, ez he kin be. Yet and still you always washin' his face wid his color and tellin' 'im he's uh bastard. He works harder'n anybody on displace. You ain't givin' 'im nothin'. He more'n makes whut he gits. Ah don't mind when he needs chesstizin' and you give it tuh 'im, but anytime you tries tuh knock any dese chillun 'bout dey head wid sticks and rocks, Ah'll be right dere tuh back dey fallin'. Ahm dey mama."

"And Ahm de pappy uh all but dat one."

"You knowed Ah had 'm 'fo' yuh married me, and if you didn't want 'im round, whut yuh marry me fuh? Dat ain't whut you said. You washed 'im up jes' lak he wuz gold den. You jes took tuh buckin' 'im since you been hangin' round sich ez Beasley and Mimms."

Ned sat down by the crude fireplace where the skillets and spiders (long-legged bread pans with iron cover) sprawled in the ashes.

"Strack uh light, dere, some uh y'all chaps. Hit's dark in heah. "

John obediently thrust a piece of lightwood into the embers and the fire blazed up. He retreated as quickly as possible to the farther end of the cabin.

Ned smoked his strong home-grown tobacco twist for a few minutes. Then he thrust out his feet.

"Pour me some water in dat wash-basin, you chaps, and some uh y'all git de washrag."There was a scurry and bustle to do his bidding, but the drinking-gourd dropped hollowly in the water bucket. Ned heard it." 'Tain't no water in dat air water-bucket, Ah'11 bound yuh!" He accused the room and glowered all about him, "House full uh younguns fuh me to feed and close, and heah I tis dust dark and rainin' and not uh drop uh water in de house! Amy, whut kinda 'oman is you nohow?"

Jonah's Gourd Vine. Copyright © by Zora Hurston. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 5 of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 18, 2014

    Gym five

    Clame it.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 21, 2014

    Outstanding

    Beautifully written debut novel. Loved every word.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2014

    Vine bye jade

    Me : sup him: what me: ur face him: What me: fuyuck lol lol

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2010

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    Posted January 21, 2010

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