FEATURED AUTHOR: Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960)
ZORA NEALE HURSTON, novelist, folklorist, and leading figure in the Harlem Renaissance, was born in Eatonville, Florida, an all-black community, where her father, a carpenter and Baptist minister, was also the mayor. She attended Howard University from 1918 to 1920, and while there met Alain Locke, one of her mentors, and joined his literary society, Stylus. In 1921, her first short story was published in that society’s magazine. From 1925 to1927 she studied anthropology with Franz Boas, a renowned cultural anthropologist. She did graduate work at Columbia University and went on to do field work for Boas in Harlem, and later travelled through the South collecting African-American folk tales and traditions.
Hurston wrote and published extensively - novels, short stories, plays, folklore, essays - and co-authored a play, “Mule Bone”, with Langston Hughes. Unfortunately, her work was often overlooked by the white literary establishment, and bitterly attacked by leading African American writers such as Richard Wright, who objected to her depictions of rural life and folk lore and who wanted her to write novels of protest. Hurston, however, felt that she was not obligated to be a "Negro writer," but held forth her right to be only herself. She once said, "At certain times, I have no race, I am me. When I set my hat at a certain angle and saunter down Seventh Avenue, Harlem City, feeling as snooty as the lions in front of the Forty-Second Street Library...."
Zora once remarked, "Mama exhorted her children to 'jump at de sun.' We might not land on the sun, but at least we would get off the ground." Clearly, she followed her mother's advice. Although she lived during a period of racism, her awards and accomplishments were many: In 1932 she wrote and staged a theatrical revue, "The Great Day," which was performed on Broadway; In 1934 she established a school of dramatic arts at Bethune-Cookman College; also in 1934, her first novel ‘Jonah's Gourd Vine was a Book-of-the-Month Club selection; in 1936 she was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship to study West Indian Obeah practices in Haiti; in 1943 she was awarded the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award in Race Relations for her autobiography Dust Tracks on a Road. Zora Neale Hurston was known for her strong spirit and her sense of humor. She would sometimes introduce herself as “Zora, Queen of the Niggerati” at Harlem literary events. She once claimed that she got out of a ticket for jaywalking by exclaiming, "I saw all the white folks walking on the green light, so I thought the red light was for me."
But underneath all of the humor, underlying both her work as a novelist and as a folklorist, was her belief in the beauty of African American culture. It is this which shines through her works, especially in what is probably her greatest novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God.
During the later part of her life, her work fell into obscurity and she herself into poverty, working as a librarian and as a maid. She died in a welfare nursing home in Fort Pierce, Florida and was buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave.
Zora Neale Hurston's works were brought back into publication and her reputation revived in the 1970s, through the efforts of writer Alice Walker. In a personal essay published in Ms. Magazine, "Looking for Zora," Walker describes searching through waist-high weeds to find Zora's unmarked grave. She lay on it a marker inscribed,
Zora Neale Hurston
"A Genius of the South"
ZORA NEAL HURSTON BOOKS AVAILABLE:
FIRST EDITION - SERAPH ON THE SEWANEE. NY: Scribner's, 1948. First printing. Hurston's fourth, and final, novel. This is the story of Arvey and Jim Meserve - Jim had gumption and wanted to get ahead, and so they moved from the Suwanee to the citrus belt in Florida, but the heart of the story is Arvey's long stumbling progress towards self-discovery and fulfillment. From a lending library, but the only markings in the book is a pocket on the rear pastedown, mostly hidden by the dustjacket flap. Overall, a tight and attractive copy is a somewhat edgeworn dustjacket. The green spine of the dustjacket has a white rectangle where a label was removed. On the back cover of the dustjacket is a 2 column brief biography headed by 'Zora Neale Hurston writes about herself:' Despite the flaws, this is overall a reasonably attractive copy of a book which is scarce in the dustjacket. 15608 $550.00
TWO TRADE PAPER EDITIONS OF HER CLASSIC NOVEL WITH INTRODUCTIONS BY BLACK WOMEN WRITERS.:
THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD. NY: HarperPerennial, 1991. Trade paperback. Foreword by Mary Helen Washington. Near fine in wrappers. 16162 $8.00
THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1978. Trade paperback. Foreword by Sherley Anne Williams. Very good+ in wrappers. 11646 $8.00
SPUNK, the Selected Short Stories of Zora Neale Hurston. Berkeley, CA: Turtle Island Foundation, 1985. First printing in wrappers. No hardcover edition. Foreword by Bob Callahan. Includes several of Hurston's earliest stories, as well as an excerpt from her mostly destroyed manuscript "Herod." First publication of "Book of Harlem." Just about fine in glossy illustrated wrappers (a new unread copy, but a spot on the back from sticker removal) 7232 $55.00
Wolfe, George C. SPUNK: Three Tales by Zora Neale Hurston NY: Theatre Communications Group, 1991. First printing. A stage adaptation of 3 of Hurston's short stories, including music for the original country -blues songs composed by Chic Street Man. Illustrated with photographs from the first productions. Fine in a fine dustjacket. 11137 $40.00
THE SANCTIFIED CHURCH Berkeley, CA: Turtle Island, 1981. This collection of essays was first published in book form in 1981. Although not stated, this is a later printing in dark gray glossy illustrated wrappers with red lettering, cover price of $9.95. Slightly rubbed covers, but otherwise fine. 3360 $10.00
WPA Project writings In MERIDIAN, Issue Number 2, Fall 1998. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia, 1998. First appearance in print of these works. A wonderful issue with poetry by Dove, Komunyakaa, Rodney Jones, Steven Cushman and others. Included is a special section of previously unpublished writings by Zora Neale Hurston from the Federal Writers' Project and a lost interview with her. Other contributions include an interview with Edwidge Danticat, short stories by Russo and Amy Knox Brown and more. This copy is SIGNED by Stephen Cushman at his contribution. Fine in illustrated wrapppers (tiny crease on corner of rear cover.) 8965 $18.00
BOOKS ABOUT HURSTON:
Lowe, John JUMP AT THE SUN: Zora Neale Hurston's Cosmic Comedy Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1994. First printing. An exploration of the comic element in Hurston's work in the first book-length critical study to draw on her entire body of work. Notes, bibliography, index. 373 pgs. Fine in a fine dj. 11279 $30.00
Porter, A. P. JUMP AT DE SUN: The Story of Zora Neale Hurston Minneapolis: Carolrhoda Books, 1992. First printing. Biography of Hurston for older children, illustrated with many wonderful photographs. Foreword by Lucy Ann Hurston, her niece. Ex-library with usual stamps, but overall tight and clean in illustrated binding and in a near fine dustjacket (color change to front cover of dj.) 10922 $15.00
(Baldwin, James; Wright, Richard; Ellison, Ralph; Toomer, Jean; Walker, Alice; Morrison, Toni; Hurston, Zora Neale; Reed, Ishmael and Chesnutt, Charles W.) Bruccoli, Matthew J. and Baughman, Judith S., editors. MODERN AFRICAN AMERICAN WRITERS: Essential Bibliogaphy of American Fiction. NY: Facts on File, 1994. First printing. Bibliographies for the nine African American writers listed above. Foreword by Keneth Kinnamon, checklist for students of American fiction and index. 92 pages. Fine in fine dust jacket (as new.) 17161 $18.00