Zora Neale Hurston

Reaktion. (Critical Lives). Jul. 2024. 224p. ISBN 9781789147957. pap. $22. BIOG
In the latest in the University of Chicago “Critical Lives” series, poet and literary scholar Hopson (Fragile) concisely tells the story of Zora Neale Hurston (1891–1960), from her childhood in Florida to her time as the first Black student at Barnard College and her work as an anthropologist and author. Part biography, part literary criticism, the work is an excellent introduction to Hurston and her writings. The chapters highlighting her works create an accessible interpretation of her ideas and feature other literary critics expertly. Hopson writes about the difficult times that Hurston lived through and how those experiences must have affected her, along with how they are reflected in her writings. She makes the distinction that Hurston was “living womanism long before Alice Walker coined the term.” The epilogue defends Hurston from criticisms levelled against her throughout her career, such as catering to wealthy white patrons. Hopson argues that her works are as relevant as ever: “Hurston understood most readily that U.S. society has never been amenable to Black life. Black women’s lives, even less so.”
VERDICT An excellent mix of biography and literary criticism, this book is recommended for both academic and public libraries.
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