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The Life of Zora Neale Hurston
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From Atlanta Journal-Constitution editor and critic Boyd, a definitive biography of the groundbreaking novelist, playwright, and anthropologist.

When she died in 1960 at the age of 69, Zora Neale Hurston was buried in an unmarked grave, and all of her books were out of print. Since then, however, her literary stock has only risen. Her 1937 novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, is now recognized as a classic of African-American and feminist literature, and many contemporary black writers have come to regard her as a sort of literary godmother. Ups and downs such as these are typical of Hurston's life. Born in Alabama and raised in the all-black town of Eatonville, Florida, she left home as a teenager, working a variety of odd jobs before eventually ending up in New York City. She attended Barnard (the college's only black student) and became a protégé of pioneering anthropologist Franz Boas. She was also to become one of the leading lights of the Harlem Renaissance, many of whose major figures appear herein, including Langston Hughes (with whom she occasionally collaborated), Countee Cullen, and Carl Van Vechten. After winning a Guggenheim grant, she traveled extensively throughout the American South and to Jamaica and Haiti, collecting stories and observing folk customs. Even so, much about her life is unknown or obscure, and even her close friends admitted she was a difficult woman to know, which makes first-time author Boyd's achievement all that more impressive. He vividly evokes Hurston's life, dispelling many of the myths that have grown up about her along the way. Boyd writes knowledgeably and gracefully, putting into perspective Hurston's considerable achievements both as a literary figure and as a social scientist.

Brings one of the most pivotal figures in 20th-century literature brilliantly to life. (25 b&w photos, not seen. Published in conjunction with the annual Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and Humanities in Eatonville, Florida.)

Pub Date: Jan. 7th, 2003
ISBN: 0-684-84230-0
Page count: 528pp
Publisher: Scribner
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 2002


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