Zora Neale Hurston: A Storyteller's Life

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Though Hurston died in obscurity in 1960, she has been rediscovered through the recognition of current African American writers and the recent New York City production of Mule Bone , the play she wrote with Langston Hughes. This considered and informative biography draws strongly on Hurston's own writings, notably Mules and Men and Dust Tracks on the Road . The voice of this woman--extraordinary in many respects-- rings clear and true here as Yates traces Hurston's life from her birth in 1901 in Eatonville, Fla., to her unique work as a folklorist, novelist, dramatist and part of the Harlem Renaissance. Her personal and professional struggles and conflicts are made accessible and meaningful to youngsters. Illustrated with bold, arresting linoleum prints, this is an excellent introduction to the woman and her work, and a fine prequel to Mary Lyons's Sorrow's Kitchen. Ages 10-15. (Aug.)
School Library Journal
Gr 4-7-- In the past 18 months, two excellent young adult biographies of Hurston have appeared. Both Mary Lyons's Sorrow's Kitchen (Scribners, 1990) and Paul Witcover's Zora Neale Hurston (Chelsea, 1990) offer insights into the creative life and motivations of this complex and controversial woman. Now Yates has produced a biography aimed at younger readers, and it fails on several counts. This overview of a tumultuous life is deceptively sunny. Although Yates discusses in detail the hard times Hurston lived through before she attained success, her style is such that there is no immediacy. Readers will not empathize with Hurston's struggle to gain an education and an outlet for her gift as a writer--Yates says that it was hard, but she does not show that it was. A further problem is the fictionalization of conversations, thoughts, feelings, and incidents, which destroys any sense of verisimilitude. The autobiographical quotes from Hurston's Dust Tracks on a Road (1991) work well, but the quotes in dialect taken from Mules and Men (1990, both HarperCollins) are out of context. As a result, they sound both stereotyped and patronizing. The black-and-white illustrations, apparently woodcuts, add little. Sometimes captioned and sometimes not, they are amateurish, blocky, and do not clarify or extend the text. To introduce Hurston to younger children, use the stories in Lyons's Sorrow's Kitchen that come directly from the writer's collections. Read or told verbatim, they have a power and authority that this well-conceived but poorly executed biography lacks. --Ann Welton, Thomas Academy, Kent, WA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780962338038
  • Publisher: Ward Hill Press
  • Publication date: 7/1/1993
  • Series: Unsung Americans Series
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Edition description: ENLARGED
  • Pages: 98
  • Age range: 9 - 15 Years

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