Zora!: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston

Overview

Zora Neale Hurston was confident, charismatic, and determined to be extraordinary.
As a young woman, Hurston lived and wrote alongside such prominent authors as
Langston Hughes and Alain Locke during the Harlem Renaissance. But unfortunately,
despite writing the luminary work Their Eyes Were Watching God, ...

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Overview

Zora Neale Hurston was confident, charismatic, and determined to be extraordinary.
As a young woman, Hurston lived and wrote alongside such prominent authors as
Langston Hughes and Alain Locke during the Harlem Renaissance. But unfortunately,
despite writing the luminary work Their Eyes Were Watching God, she was always short
of money. Though she took odd jobs as a housemaid and as the personal assistant to
an actress, Zora often found herself in abject poverty. Through it all, Zora kept writing.
And though none of her books sold more than a thousand copies while she was alive,
she was rediscovered a decade later by a new generation of readers, who knew they
had found an important voice of American Literature.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This accessible and entertaining biography of the gifted, energetic, and ambitious African-American author of Their Eyes Were Watching God engages the dreams, challenges, and accomplishments of Hurston, who garnered some recognition during her lifetime, but achieved fame only after her death. Beginning with a striking scene of the 59-year-old Hurston, already a well-known author, working as a white family’s domestic helper because she needed a paycheck, the Fradins (Stolen into Slavery) establish the complexities of Zora’s inner and external worlds, before offering highlights of her life in chronological order. These include her idyllic childhood in the all-black town of Eatonville, Fla.—where she read books, played baseball, and listened to “lying sessions” (storytelling) at the general store—as well as her decade spent as a working college student, her tumultuous friendship with Langston Hughes, literary ventures, anthropological research, three short-lived marriages, and late-life poverty. Photographs of family, friends, and patrons (including one of Zora and her car, “Sassy Susie”) add resonance, as does her own voice, in quotations from letters and her autobiography. Zora’s creative, hopeful, and complicated personality shines through this compelling profile. Ages 9–12. (Aug.)
From the Publisher
"This accessible biography introduces Zora Neale Hurston's remarkable life and work to a new generation of readers."—Booklist

"Fradin continues his tradition of writing superbly researched biographies."—VOYA, 4Q 3P M J

"Zora Neale Hurston and her times come alive in this introduction for young readers."—Kirkus

"Zora's creative, hopeful, and complicated personality shines through this compelling profile."—Publishers Weekly

"The writing is straightforward and engaging, and the numerous archival photographs and reproductions add interest and clarification."—School Library Journal

"[An] engaging account of Hurston's life . . . this well-documented biography is pleasurable reading as well as informative."—Horn Book

"[Zora!] features the humor and heartache of the life of a brilliant but largely underappreciated writer who only became really well known after her death."—Bulletin

VOYA - Charla Hollingsworth
The biography of Zora Neal Hurston begins near the end of her life and then takes the reader back in time, to where her life began in rural Alabama. Zora enjoyed her young life until her mother's death when Zora was only thirteen. The passing of the family matriarch and subsequent remarriage of her father significantly changed the course of Zora's life. She spent her teens and twenties in and out of schools and living with various siblings. Zora loved learning and spent many years trying to get a complete education in the segregated South and slightly more progressive North. In her twenties, Zora worked with a group of writers that included Langston Hughes. Partially through Hughes, Zora was able to find a benefactor who enabled her to focus more on her writing than a daily job. Throughout her life, Zora balanced the need for a job to provide money for living and her desire to be a full-time writer. Fradin continues his tradition of writing superbly researched biographies with Zora!: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston. The plethora of source notes enables the reader to feel that they are reading a true biography as opposed to a feel-good-tale loosely based on fact. Hurston is one of our great twentieth century writers but students are more familiar with her contemporaries like Langston Hughes. Readers will find the story of Zora Hurston's life enthralling as they see the life that influenced her writing. Reviewer: Charla Hollingsworth
School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—This biography begins with Hurston as a middle-aged woman. Working as a maid to make ends meet, she is "found out" and spins tales about both her age and the reasons behind her domestic servitude. This well-chosen episode succinctly captures the legendary author's colorful spirit-her mischievous penchant for lying about her age and ever cash-poor status, but undying desire to write and publish. These themes are threaded throughout the narrative, from her early childhood in all-black Eatonville, FL, through her tumultuous personal and professional life, to her death in near obscurity. The writing is straightforward and engaging, and the numerous archival photographs and reproductions add interest and clarification. While many of Hurston's titles have been reissued in recent years, there have been few biographies for children. The Fradins' accessible style and incorporation of recent scholarship will prove a major selling point where the author is studied.—Jill Heritage Maza, Montclair Kimberley Academy, Montclair, NJ
Kirkus Reviews
Zora Neale Hurston and her times come alive in this introduction for young readers. Living in the all-black town of Eatonville, Fla., Zora Neale Hurston never had to face the racism of her times. She grew up proud and confident, believing "the moon followed her wherever she went." Early on, she cultivated the dream of becoming a famous writer, and though she faced many obstacles along the way, she succeeded with Their Eyes Were Watching God, which has sold over five million copies and is now a fixture of high school and college curricula. The volume is nicely designed, and the many photographs (captions not seen) make it feel like a Hurston scrapbook, though there are too many pages of dense text unbroken by images. Somehow, though, Hurston's odyssey--through the Harlem Renaissance and the Prohibition era, as well as through the South collecting stories from former slaves, lumber workers near the Everglades and voodoo practitioners in New Orleans--comes off as dry and not especially interesting. Audience is an issue, too, since the volume is aimed at young readers who won't have heard of Hurston and won't find books by her for their age group. A work aimed at an older teen audience might have better hit the mark. An adequate introduction to a remarkable 20th-century author. (two folktales, timeline, source notes, bibliography, index) (Biography. 9-12)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780547006956
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 8/28/2012
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 788,528
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 1110L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 10.10 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Dennis Brindell Fradin is the author of many books for young readers, including the well-received SAMUEL ADAMS: THE FATHER OF AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE and, with coauthor and wife Judith Bloom Fradin, IDA B. WELLS: MOTHER OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT. He lives in Evanston, Illinois.

Judith Bloom Fradin has collaborated with Dennis Brindell Fradin

on several award-winning books for young readers, includinng Fight On! Mary Church Terrell's Battle for Integration, selected as one of 2004's Best Books for Young Adults among other honors. The Fradins live in Evanston, Illinois

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