Yannuzzi (Wilma Mankiller, 1994, not reviewed), awkwardly rehashing information better handled by one of her sourcesMary Lyons's Sorrow's Kitchen (1993)seldom peeks below the surface of Hurston's checkered literary career and notably unstable private life.
A luminary of the Harlem Renaissance, Hurston later became an enthusiastic collector of African-American tales, lore, and cultural practicesbut, unable to hold on to money, friends, husbands, or benefactors, died in poverty and remained almost forgotten until the mid-1970s. Through a selection of telling incidents and brief quoted comments, Hurston's intelligence and strong personality come across, but her written work is passed over virtually unassessed in a dry recitation of titles and content summaries that reads like CIP notes. Yannuzzi does not explain how an author supposedly endowed with "a big talent and a strong will to succeed" met with such mixed reviews and produced so many rejected manuscripts; readers will come away with only vague ideas of the quality of Hurston's thought or writing. This may be more detailed than Patricia McKissack's shorter Zora Neale Hurston, Writer and Storyteller (1992), but it offers no further insight.