Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Author Spotlight: Zora Neale Hurston

The Google Doodle today is in celebration of the 123rd birthday of Zora Neale Hurston, author of one of my favorite books, "Their Eyes were Watching God."

She was her own woman. In an age where it was not cool to "act black", she acted black. Because that's who she was: A strong black woman. I added the photo to the left because it's just the kind of thing that other blacks came down on her for. If she wanted to dress up and play drums like her ancestors, no one was going to tell her she couldn't. Her contemporaries told her that she was doing a disservice to the strides they had made, but she held firm that, if the strides meant rejecting who they were and from where they came, they were not strides at all.

One of my favorite books is by her, and she received criticism for it, too. Here is my review from May, 2012:

This book is heralded as an "African American Feminist Classic", which put me off a bit. In the age of what came to be known as "racial uplifting" in literature, I didn't look forward to yet another story of the hardship, bitterness, plight and struggle of the American Negro. The book was panned because she didn't use her voice to try to advance the movement, and her fellow authors turned on her, as they thought she had turned on them.

However, this is a story that celebrates community, rural living, family and, most of all, a woman choosing her own path in a day when she was still considered the property of her husband. This strong-willed woman could have been any color, but her being black added to the story, as opposed to shaping or forming the foundation of the story.

The writing here is intelligent, lyrical and absolutely beautiful. It has insight, daring, courage and transports the reader in time. I was in the Everglades. I was on that store porch. I was in the big house. And I was on the dusty road, looking toward my next destination. Hurston was a writer...an author...and you should read this book simply because it is American literature at its finest.

Happy Birthday, Zora Neale Hurston!

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