Hurston: Novels and Stories

Overview

When she died in poverty and obscurity in 1960, all of Zora Neale Hurston's books were out of print. Today her groundbreaking works, suffused with the culture and traditions of African-Americans and the poetry of black speech, have won her recognition as one of the most significant African-American writers. This volume, with its companion, Novels & Stories brings together for the first time all of Hurston's best writings in one authoritative set. "Folklore is the arts of the people," Hurston wrote, "before ...
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Overview

When she died in poverty and obscurity in 1960, all of Zora Neale Hurston's books were out of print. Today her groundbreaking works, suffused with the culture and traditions of African-Americans and the poetry of black speech, have won her recognition as one of the most significant African-American writers. This volume, with its companion, Novels & Stories brings together for the first time all of Hurston's best writings in one authoritative set. "Folklore is the arts of the people," Hurston wrote, "before they find out that there is any such thing as art." A pioneer of African-American ethnography who did graduate study in anthropology with the renowned Franz Boas, Hurston devoted herseif to preserving the black folk heritage. In Mules and Men (1935), the first book of African-American folklore written by an African-American, she returned to her native Florida and to New Orleans to record stories and sermons, blues and work songs, children's games, courtship rituals, and formulas of hoodoo doctors. This classic work is presented here with the original illustrations by the great Mexican artist Miguel Covarrubias. Tell My Horse (1938), part ethnography, part travel book, vividly recounts the survival of African religion in Jamaican obeah and Haitian voodoo in the 1930s. Keenly alert to political and intellectual currents, Hurston went beyond superficial exoticism to explore the role of these religious systems in their societies. The text is illustrated by 26 photographs, many of them taken by Huston. Her extensive transcriptions of Creole songs here accompanied by new translation. A special feature of this volume is Hurston's controversial 1942 autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Road. With consultation by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., it is presented here for the first time as she intended, restoring passages omitted by the original publisher because of political controversy, sexual candor, or fear of libel. Included in an appendix are four additional chapters, one never

A special feature of this collection of works by Zora Neale Hurston is the first complete and unexpurgated edition of her 1942 autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Road. Tell My Horse, Mules and Men, and selected articles are included also. Features a brief essay on the texts and detailed notes.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
No Black History Month celebration would be complete without Hurston, and here the venerable Library of America collects a wide range of her work. This two-volume set combines four novels with a selection of short stories; her autobiography presented in unexpurgated form for the first time; and her lesser-known anthropological writings, all of which have been restored by scholar and editor Wall. The Hurston collection is essential for all libraries.
Brad Hooper
Library of America's companion to Hurston's "Novels and Stories" presents her nonfiction work, which is perhaps less familiar but no less important than her fiction in the body of black literature. This is the first time the unexpurgated version of her 1942 autobiography, "Dust Tracks on the Road", is being published; sections deemed too provocative (dealing with politics, race, and sex) have been restored. "Mules and Men" (1935) is a collection of African American folklore she gleaned on travels in the South, while "Tell My Horse" (1938) tenders her personal findings on African-based religion in Jamaica and Haiti. Additionally, 22 magazine and book articles with anthropological themes (Hurston did graduate work in that field) that have never been gathered into book form are corralled here. As readers only familiar with her fiction will discover, she couches her nonfiction in the same visceral yet poetic style--for instance, this quote from "Dust Tracks": "It seems to me that trying to live without friends is like milking a bear to get cream for your morning coffee. It is a whole lot of trouble, and then not worth much after you get it." It will never be easier to acquire a complete set of Hurston's nonfiction than now.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780940450837
  • Publisher: Library of America
  • Publication date: 2/28/1995
  • Series: Library of America Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 1054
  • Sales rank: 727,761
  • Age range: 18 years
  • Product dimensions: 5.21 (w) x 8.11 (h) x 1.18 (d)

Meet the Author

Zora Neale Hurston
Zora Neale Hurston
Zora Neale Hurston will forever be remembered as one of the greatest writers of the Harlem Renaissance. Her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God is widely considered to be a classic, as it recounts the spiritual journey of a black southern woman in inventive and beautiful detail. An anthropologist, essayist, theatrical producer, and novelist, Hurston was a renaissance woman in the truest sense.

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.

Table of Contents

Mules and Men 1
Tell My Horse 269
Dust Tracks on a Road 557
Selected Articles 809
Chronology 961
Note on the Texts 981
Notes 988
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