I LOVE MYSELF WHEN I AM LAUGHING... AND THEN AGAIN
A Zora Neale Hurston Reader
Zora Neale Hurston, who left her Florida home at 14 to become a maid, became instead part of the Harlem Renaissance and one of America's most prolific black women writers during her 30-year career as novelist, journalist, and folklorist (Franz Boas-trained). She died broke in a welfare home in 1960, rejected by liberals who found her too conservative, conservatives who found her too outrageous, and male literary critics who tried hard to lose her. In this long overdue collection (the first) of her work are slices of great variety, representing all published aspects. Excerpts from the evasive autobiography Dust Tracks in the Road concern love and work (in a pinch she opts for the latter). The "lying" dialect tall stories of Mules and Men are among the most valuable examples of black folklore. Several essays on race ("How It Feels to be Colored Me"), controversial in their time, are just as provocative today though often for opposite reasons. A long section of Hurston's best known novel Their Eves Were Watching God caps this collection and her greatly underrated achievement as an important American writer. In a succinct introduction Mary Helen Washington describes Hurston's career and analyzes sexist critical response. Alice Walker appreciatively discusses Hurston in a dedicatory essay and describes in an afterword her own search for Zora's unmarked grave (and unremembered life). Walker describes Hurston's work as "alternately winning and appalling, but rarely dull, which is worth a lot." Indeed it is--and fittingly presented at last.