Zora and Langston: The Story of Friendship and Betrayal

Norton. Mar. 2019. 304p. index. ISBN 9780393243918. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9780393243925. LIT
Zora Neale Hurston (1891–1960) and Langston Hughes (1902–67) were not only literary luminaries but also best friends. They shared a vision of black art and identity, and traveled and worked together. Their brief companionship lasted from 1925 until a dramatic falling out in 1931. Taylor (senior editor, Chicago Review Press; coauthor Faking It;$SPACE$Darkest America) is the first to explore their relationship at length and in-depth. The catalyst for its end was a play Hughes and Hurston collaborated on against the wishes of their mutual benefactor, Charlotte Mason. Added to the threat of losing financial support was Hurston's jealousy of Hughes's deepening relationship with Mason's secretary, Louise Thompson. Mix in misunderstandings, crossed letters, and meddling friends and the result is a bitter conclusion to a once dynamic closeness.
VERDICT Taylor provides so much background for Hughes and Hurston as individuals that the details of their friendship sometimes get lost. However, one does not need to know much about the pair in order to enjoy this account, which is likely to appeal to their fans who have not read comprehensive biographies of either author.

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