Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A Rediscovered Gem

Zora Neale Hurston.

Forgotten for many years.

A pioneer in the Black literary movement. A pre-eminent writer, folklorist, anthropologist.

Her work was overlooked for decades, hidden as much by the inability for people to see that an African-American woman could be in the same league as Richard Wright, James Baldwin and others. Others objected to her use of idiomatic African-American dialect, which in the political debate of the time was pandering to the white people's tastes and prejudices. Perhaps her vision of communities in Florida that were Black run and managed kept her out of the white spotlight as well.

In the mid 1970s author Alice Walker worked hard to get Hurston rediscovered. As people like Walker, Toni Morrison and Maya Angelou opened the doors for women writers, they also opened the past for Hurston story and works to be brought to light. Fortunately for all of us, it worked.

I just finished her most famous work, the 1937 novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God. It is a rich, multi-layered glimpse into life in the African-American communities of the south in those years still shadowed by slavery and the Civil War. Her ability to present dialogue in the dialect while her language is rich in images and insight. I was pulled into the story and it never let me leave.

It is well worth the read.

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