Zora Neale Hurston
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Hurston's novel about a woman's search for identity is by far her best-known work. The story of Janie and her lover Tea Cake is hailed as a feminist classic, and women from Alice Walker to Oprah Winfrey have identified it as one of the most important books they've ever read. You don't have to be a woman to like it, though!
Hurston's memoir of growing up in Eatonville, Florida was critically acclaimed during her lifetime. Hurston was such an unabashed fabulist that it's impossible to know exactly which of her memories actually, um, happened, but her lyrical writing style is a pleasure to read.
Jonah's Gourd Vine was Hurston's first novel. The novel is based loosely on the lives of her own parents, John and Lucy Potts Hurston.
In a feat of detective work worthy of Sherlock Holmes, scholar Valerie Boyd created this authoritative account of a woman who often intentionally misled people about the truth of her own life. Boyd reconstructed Hurston's life through letters, interviews and primary documents. Her portrait reveals a gifted and passionate writer who refused to conform to anyone else's standards.
One of Hurston's greatest contributions to literature was her tireless collection of African-American folklore. This anthology includes some of Hurston's finds, as well as other tales that make up this piece of history.
The writer Alice Walker (author of The Color Purple) is the reason that you are reading about Zora Neale Hurston today. As a young woman Walker single-handedly uncovered Hurston's overgrown grave and resurrected her career, bringing new attention to a writer time had forgotten. Walker herself chose selections of Hurston's work for this anthology.