I’ve always loved to read about strong female characters. And even though Zora Neale Hurston was a real human being, she was also a character. She was everything I admire in a person; she was tough, strong, determined, and cared about what mattered in life.
Nothing about Hurston was average. Raised in the all-Black Florida town of Eatonville until her mother died when Hurston was 13, she was forced to take care of herself after age 15. Nevertheless, she managed to survive and earned high school and college diplomas. The latter is from Barnard, an all-White college, after she attended the esteemed Howard University in D.C. All this is unusual and impressive for the time. She was a respected member of the Harlem Renaissance. But the most notable thing about Hurston was her intellect. She was a genius.
Valerie Boyd took the facts of Hurston’s life, digging deep and wide, to uncover a complex woman. Like any of us, Hurston wasn’t perfect. In a fit of temper, she almost killed her stepmother. Boyd also discloses that once in her career, she was guilty of plagiarism. And she spent most of her life lying about her age.
But the good far outweighed the bad. Hurston was fearless. She toured the American South, Jamaica and Haiti, alone, collecting material from the Black populations for valued contributions to anthropology. While studying conjure in New Orleans and Haiti, she delved deep into Hoodoo and Voodoo. Her contributions have been unparalleled. Then there are her novels, like Jonah’s Goardvine, Moses, Man of the Mountain, and Their Eyes Were Watching God. She was also heavily involved in theater.
Boyd’s writing style keeps the pages turning. I enjoyed every chapter. Zora Neale Huston was an irrepressible woman who should serve as an inspiration for anyone, male or female, young or old. I enjoyed the work every bit as much as a novel. Because of this, I recommend it to everyone.