Zora Neale Hurston: A Biography of the Spirit

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This new biography takes into account the whole woman—not just the prolific author of such great works as Their Eyes Were Watching God , Moses, Man of the Mountain, Jonah's Gourd Vine, Mules and Men, as well as essays, folklore, short stories, and poetry—but the philosopher and the spiritual soul, examining how each is reflected in her career, fiction and nonfiction publications, social and political activity, and, ultimately, her death.

When we ask what animated the woman who achieved all that she did, we must necessarily probe further. Not one of the other existing biographies discusses or analyzes Hurston's spirituality in any sustained sense, even though this spirituality played a significant role in her life and works. As author Deborah G. Plant shows, Zora Neale Hurston's ability to achieve and to endure all she did came from the courage of her convictions—a belief in self that was profoundly centered and anchored in spirituality.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A biography of writer Zora Neale Hurston, this volume focuses on her spirituality as a driving force and how it was reflected in her academic career, fiction and nonfiction, sociopolitical activity, and professional career. Plant (Africana studies, U. of South Florida) also discusses her spiritual legacy in institutions, works, curricula, performances, and festivals created in Hurston's honor. She considers her spiritual views and beliefs and her life and career in this context, drawing on Akasha Gloria Hull's concept of spirituality as containing the following aspects as a means for taking part in struggle: political and social awareness, eclectic spiritual consciousness, and enhanced creativity. The volume is for both general readers and scholars."


Reference & Research Book News

"Plant relies on previous biographies as well as interviews and correspondence with Hurston's friends and colleagues, to offer a portrait of a woman with an eclectic and searching sense of the spiritual in everyday life. Plant also explores the religious images in Hurston's work, the characters based on her own father, a preacher, and Hurston's understanding of the Baptist Church as well as other beliefs, including the voodoo practices of the West Indies. Hurston's appreciations of the transcendent in common people, her curiosity, and her own self awareness blended into an appreciation of the soul source that guided her life and her work. This is a compelling look at another side of one of the most significant literary figures of the Harlem Renaissance and American literature."



"Plant….adds new dimension to the body of biographical literature already published, earnestly portraying Hurston's vitality and spirituality, characteristics that enabled her to achieve innumerable accomplishments….An inspiring read recommended for all libraries."


Library Journal

"Part reference book, part intellectual biography, part passionate defense, this release in the Women Writers of Color series concentrates more on Hurston's art and less on her life than does Valerie Boyd's Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston (2003). Plant's approach, which is accessible without being simplistic, complements that of Carla Kaplan in her eponymous edited collection of Hurston's letters (2003). Plant vaults between levels of formality, but this ingenious method bears fascinating fruit in her bravura account of the plot of Their Eyes Were Watching God, told, as in the novel, from Janie Crawford's point of view. Plant takes particular note of Hurston's unpublished work on Herod the Great, long neglected by Hurston scholars. Though her treatment of that work is a bit diffuse, Plant convincingly demonstrates the Herod project's pertinence, particularly in any revision of Hurston's later years. Plant's explanation of Hurston's alleged improvidence—that she believed money was to be spent to gain experience—gives insight into Hurston's creative soul. Also valuable are Plant's interviews of readers and advocates of Hurston's work, material that shows the reader why Hurston still resonates in the 21st century. Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates and general readers."



Library Journal

Radiant light, sun, and ancestral light are the central metaphors shining through this latest biography of Zora Neale Hurston, author of Their Eyes Were Watching God(1937). Plant (Africana studies, Univ. of South Florida; Every Tub Must Sit on Its Own Bottom: The Philosophy and Politics of Zora Neale Hurston) adds new dimension to the body of biographical literature already published, earnestly portraying Hurston's vitality and spirituality, characteristics that enabled her to achieve innumerable accomplishments after a life at odds growing up in the Jim Crow South. The tenacious Hurston suffered familial abandonment, successive homelessness, intractable poverty, public humiliation, and eventual isolation. Yet she was a furnace of self-empowerment and forged alliances with such fellow notable writers as Fanny Hurst and Langston Hughes. Plant's well-documented portrayal of Hurston the woman, the anthropologist, the folklorist, the dramatist, the novelist, and the bona fide Voodoo Queen draws from and builds on established Hurston studies, the writer's 1942 autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Road; and newly discovered material. Among the extras are statements from college students on Hurston's ongoing influence and extensive notes. An inspiring read recommended for all libraries.
—Katharine A. Webb

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780275987510
  • Publisher: Greenwood Publishing Group, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 8/30/2007
  • Series: Women Writers of Color Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 264
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

DEBORAH G. PLANT is Associate Professor of Africana Studies at University of South Florida, author of Every Tub Must Sit On Its Own Bottom: The Philosophy and Politics of Zora Neale Hurston.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 14, 2014

    Kudos to Deborah G. Plant! I just finished reading this biograph

    Kudos to Deborah G. Plant! I just finished reading this biography on Zora Neale Hurston and could not wait to recommend it to
    family members and friends. Thank you for shedding another light on Zora.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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