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Dust Tracks On A Road (Virago Modern Classics)

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"Told in gutsy language...her story is an encouraging and enjoyable one for any member of the human race." — N.Y. Review of Books. First published in 1942 at the height of her popularity, Dust Tracks on a Road is Zora Neale Hurston's candid, funny, bold and poignant autobiography, an imaginative and exuberant account of her rise from childhood poverty in the rural South to "Told in gutsy language...her story is an encouraging and enjoyable one for any member of the human race." — N.Y. Review of Books. First published in 1942 at the height of her popularity, Dust Tracks on a Road is Zora Neale Hurston's candid, funny, bold and poignant autobiography, an imaginative and exuberant account of her rise from childhood poverty in the rural South to a prominent place among the leading artists and intellectuals of the Harlem Renaissance. As compelling as her acclaimed fiction, Hurston's very personal literary self-portrait offers a revealing, often audacious glimpse into the life–public and private–of an extraordinary artist, anthropologist, chronicler, and champion of the black experience in America. Full of the wit and wisdom of a proud, spirited woman who started off low and climbed hight, Dust Tracks on a Road is a rare treasure from one of literature's most cherished voices.


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"Told in gutsy language...her story is an encouraging and enjoyable one for any member of the human race." — N.Y. Review of Books. First published in 1942 at the height of her popularity, Dust Tracks on a Road is Zora Neale Hurston's candid, funny, bold and poignant autobiography, an imaginative and exuberant account of her rise from childhood poverty in the rural South to "Told in gutsy language...her story is an encouraging and enjoyable one for any member of the human race." — N.Y. Review of Books. First published in 1942 at the height of her popularity, Dust Tracks on a Road is Zora Neale Hurston's candid, funny, bold and poignant autobiography, an imaginative and exuberant account of her rise from childhood poverty in the rural South to a prominent place among the leading artists and intellectuals of the Harlem Renaissance. As compelling as her acclaimed fiction, Hurston's very personal literary self-portrait offers a revealing, often audacious glimpse into the life–public and private–of an extraordinary artist, anthropologist, chronicler, and champion of the black experience in America. Full of the wit and wisdom of a proud, spirited woman who started off low and climbed hight, Dust Tracks on a Road is a rare treasure from one of literature's most cherished voices.

30 review for Dust Tracks On A Road (Virago Modern Classics)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rowena

    "There is something wonderful to behold just ahead. Let's go see what it is." - Zora Neale Hurston, Dust Tracks on a Road I was a bit apprehensive about reading this book as I’ve read about the tragedies Zora Neale Hurston experienced in her life. This, however, turned out to be one of the most marvelous autobiographies I have ever read and more inspirational than discouraging. I loved reading about Hurston’s childhood; she was such a precocious and inquisitive child who could easily have been s "There is something wonderful to behold just ahead. Let's go see what it is." - Zora Neale Hurston, Dust Tracks on a Road I was a bit apprehensive about reading this book as I’ve read about the tragedies Zora Neale Hurston experienced in her life. This, however, turned out to be one of the most marvelous autobiographies I have ever read and more inspirational than discouraging. I loved reading about Hurston’s childhood; she was such a precocious and inquisitive child who could easily have been stifled creatively by the culture she lived in, a culture and society that did not encourage book-reading or learning, yet found ways to grow her creativity and imagination. Her adventures and experiences as an adult were also interesting. I loved her opinionated, unapologetic personality. Her ideas about race and religion were probably considered radical in those days; she was definitely way ahead of her time. And her writing, wow! She was adept at writing using different literary styles and idiomatic expressions, and she also respected the Southern dialect and people, therefore her understanding for the need of their different linguistic expression came across clearly in her writing and thought process. Her writing is also witty and she's also a wonderful storyteller. Her autobiography has several stories and folktales included. Also, she dislikes math as much as I do, as is evidenced by the following quote: "I did not do well in mathematics. Why should A minus B? Who the devil was X anyway?" I concur! Her anthropology background and her positive experiences with white people made her see people beyond the veil of race, and instead just see the person. I thought that was wonderful. I would unquestionably invite Zora Neale Hurston to my fantasy literary dinner party. She’s definitely inspirational. "My search for knowledge of things took me into many strange places and adventures." - Zora Neale Hurston, Dust Tracks on a Road

  2. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    Oh the magic and mystery that was Zora Neale Hurston. An indescribable childhood, deplorable kindred, a love life that was itself a puzzle. (In fact she does admit that her true love story with her second husband was somehow interwoven into her novel: "I tried to embalm all the tenderness of my passion for him in Their Eyes Were Watching God). The first sentence of this memoir is a lyrical ambush: Like the dead-seeming, cold rocks, I have memories within that came out of the material that went t Oh the magic and mystery that was Zora Neale Hurston. An indescribable childhood, deplorable kindred, a love life that was itself a puzzle. (In fact she does admit that her true love story with her second husband was somehow interwoven into her novel: "I tried to embalm all the tenderness of my passion for him in Their Eyes Were Watching God). The first sentence of this memoir is a lyrical ambush: Like the dead-seeming, cold rocks, I have memories within that came out of the material that went to make me. Time and place have had their say. Zora Neale Hurston was a highly acclaimed writer, publishing four novels, two books of folklore, an autobiography, and more than fifty short pieces between the Harlem Renaissance and the end of the Korean War. She was seen as a dominant writer who brought the consciousness of the black woman to literature. Her use of dialect and vernacular was her framework. Her work was so important to the next generation of women writers that Alice Walker made it her literary quest to find her: "In Search of Zora Neale Hurston." What is interesting is that at times, like the title of Walker's article, you do find yourself searching for Hurston throughout her memoir. She was born in Alabama but considered Eatonville, Florida her home. Though she grew up in the Jim Crow south, she was surrounded by people who looked like her because Eatonville was a small black incorporated town. Hurston didn't want to touch the topic of race, didn't believe in dwelling on it, even excuses the white man who helped with her birth when he referenced the n-word. There is a chapter in her book devoted to the racial oppression of her time and aside from that, race is only seen through subtleties in conversation, like this one with her grandmother who had "seen slavery:" Git down offa dat gate post! You li'l sow, you!...Setting up dere looking dem white folks right in de face! They's gowine to lynch you, yet...Youse too brazen to live long. She was a woman who didn't believe in race or class. To her, they were easy generalizations and she chose individualism instead. According to her, "Negroes were neither better nor worse than any other race." She didn't believe in prayer: "Prayer seems to me a cry of weakness." Didn't believe in organized creed: "Seems to me that organized creeds are collections of words around a wish." And yet she believed in the rituals of Hoodoo: In New Orleans, I delved into Hoodoo, or sympathetic magic... I learned the routines for making and breaking marriages; driving off and punishing enemies; influencing the minds of judges and juries in favor of clients; killing by remote control and other things...In another ceremony, I had to sit at the crossroads at midnight in complete darkness and meet the Devil and make a compact... There is inert gloom and placid darkness to be found in the memoir. Picture a person on a dark, cold night, smoking a cigarette next to a campfire, telling you a story so enticing, you want to hear the end even while parts of it gives you goosebumps. At times you don't know what to expect from this story, like in the beginning for instance, when Hurston tells you: "I stood in a world of vanished communion with my kind." Was she saying something indirectly? And then: "I had knowledge before its time. I knew my fate. I knew that I would be an orphan and homeless...I would stand beside a dark pool of water and see a huge fish move slowly away at a time when I would be somehow in the depth of despair." All one can do is wonder about these passages because even with the graceful storytelling and vibrant language, much is mysterious. Some chapters feel like essays, some like avoidance. At times Hurston gets close only to disappear into narrative. Even when she gets to the 1929 Hurricane in New Orleans, she gives a few sentences of vagueness. You still wonder, beneath it all, who was Hurston? It makes you want to pick up a biography wherein you see her from another's eyes (probably the one written by Valerie Boyd ) and perhaps answer some questions that even she couldn't have answered: 1.With all her success, why did she only get royalties of $943.75? 2.Why did she disappear into obscurity? 3.How was it, that she receives two Guggenheims, is hired as a story consultant at Paramount, later works as a librarian, but ends up working as a maid even while her work receives awards? 4. How does she go from saying, "Negroes were neither better nor worse than any other race," to publishing an article entitled, "What White Publishers Won't Print?"

  3. 5 out of 5

    Alice Lippart

    Really interesting and I love the way this is written!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Chrissie

    Through reading this book one discovers much about Zora Neale Hurston's life and personality. She was a short story writer, novelist (author of Their Eyes Were Watching God), anthropologist and folklorist. She lived from 1891 to 1960.This book was published in 1942, 18 years before her death. A chronology listing the important events of her entire life is found at the book's end. She died in poverty and was buried in an unmarked grave. In 1973 author Alice Walker saw that a gravestone was instal Through reading this book one discovers much about Zora Neale Hurston's life and personality. She was a short story writer, novelist (author of Their Eyes Were Watching God), anthropologist and folklorist. She lived from 1891 to 1960.This book was published in 1942, 18 years before her death. A chronology listing the important events of her entire life is found at the book's end. She died in poverty and was buried in an unmarked grave. In 1973 author Alice Walker saw that a gravestone was installed with the words "A Genius of the South." Zora was born in Notasulga, Alabama, but at the age of three her family moved to Eatonville, Florida, one of the first self-governing all-black municipalities in the United States. This is where she grew up, this is where she called home and this is the town she uses as a backdrop for many of her stories. From the start, as a young child she was brazen, sassy and curious. She had opinions and there was no stopping her. The book covers her youth, her education and what she did with her life. That she became a folklorist shows. It is reflected in how she tells of her life; her experiences are related through stories. These stories have dialogs and songs. Has she recalled them word for word? Are they noted in diaries? There is no mention of such. I assume they are improvised. What is interesting to note is that the autobiography reads almost as a collection of stories. This isn’t surprising given that she was a folklorist and that she loved the songs of her people! Chapters cover her personal beliefs - on religion, on the value of friends, on hoodoo, on dance, on books, on race pride, race consciousness and race prejudice and most importantly on individualism. One should never clump people into groups, not ever! The book ends and then a long section is filled with what seems like add-ons. The chronology spoken of above, as well as appendixes, very lengthy acknowledgements and her involvement with a dance production. The appendixes summarize much of what was indicated earlier in the book, clarifying if you happened not to have understood. It is just that I had understood and they felt preachy, like a repetitive lecture. What hits one immediately as you read the book is that the writing style is unusual. I found it unique in two ways. Nothing is said without a story. This became occasionally excessive. Secondly, metaphors and similes abound, but at times this felt simply wordy and repetitive. Other times what the author was saying was unclear due to the use of idioms and black nomenclature of which I am unfamiliar. The audiobook is narrated by Bahni Turpin. She sings, she changes inflections for different characters, she recreates revivalist meetings…….. or shall we just say she dramatizes for all that she is worth. Many will like this. It is not badly performed. If what you are looking for is a performance, you will be happy. I prefer a simple reading of the text.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Shannon

    Dust Tracks On a Road, Zora Neale Hurston’s autobiography, was published in 1942. This verbose but colorful book reads like a collection of short stories. Hurston often poses questions that she proceeds to answer but not without excluding the reader from her thought process. Sometimes by the end of the chapter the questions are still unanswered. But for Hurston it seems just thinking through it was enough. And so goes her autobiography. Hurston always had a fanciful way about herself. We find out Dust Tracks On a Road, Zora Neale Hurston’s autobiography, was published in 1942. This verbose but colorful book reads like a collection of short stories. Hurston often poses questions that she proceeds to answer but not without excluding the reader from her thought process. Sometimes by the end of the chapter the questions are still unanswered. But for Hurston it seems just thinking through it was enough. And so goes her autobiography. Hurston always had a fanciful way about herself. We find out early in the book that she was a storyteller from the beginning. A significant portion of the book is dedicated to stories that she recalls from her childhood. While Hurston’s mother was always supportive of her anecdotes, her grandmother found them troubling. I laughed when I read Hurston’s account of what happened when she was telling her mother a story within earshot of her grandmother, “Oh, she’s just playing,” Mama said indulgently. Her grandmother replied,“Playing! Why dat lil’ heifer is lying just as fast as a horse can trot. Stop her!” Hurston’s mother died when Hurston was a teen and her father remarried. She found her stepmother impossible to get along with. They had physical altercations with Hurston admitting at one point that she wanted to kill the woman. After six years, Hurston had had enough. This discontentment is was caused her to venture out into the world. Things serendipitously fall into place for her time after time once she sets out on her own. She even writes, “From the depth of my inner heart I appreciated the fact that the world had not been altogether unkind to Mama’s child.” Filled with quotable material, Dust Tracks On a Road is less about the chronology of Hurston’s life and more about how she makes sense of the cards life has dealt.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Raul Bimenyimana

    “I have been in Sorrow's kitchen and licked out all the pots. Then I have stood on the peaky mountain wrapped in rainbows, with a harp and a sword in my hands.” This audiobook performed by Bahni Turpin was great. Zora is a fantastic storyteller, the kind that grips your attention from the first word to the last and it was a wonderful to be immersed in her words as Turpin narrated of her life, from her beginnings as a precocious child in Eatonville, Florida to her work towards funding her way to s “I have been in Sorrow's kitchen and licked out all the pots. Then I have stood on the peaky mountain wrapped in rainbows, with a harp and a sword in my hands.” This audiobook performed by Bahni Turpin was great. Zora is a fantastic storyteller, the kind that grips your attention from the first word to the last and it was a wonderful to be immersed in her words as Turpin narrated of her life, from her beginnings as a precocious child in Eatonville, Florida to her work towards funding her way to school and the adventures she had in the process, to then school and later her work as an anthropologist and researcher, and as an artist and novelist.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jerrika Rhone

    Zora just gave me life #yesssssssssssssssssss 65% Done: Writing on paper, that Booker T Washington was trash makes Zora the dopest of the dope. Fight me.

  8. 4 out of 5

    booklady

    Excellent writing over all, published in 1942 at the height of Zora Neale Hurston’s popularity. The author lived another 18 years, died, was buried in an unmarked grave and remained largely ignored until novelist, Alice Walker, looked into her and her work with a view to having Hurston recognized by new generations. The title probably refers to Hurston’s tumbleweed existence from her youth onward. Her mother died when she was 14. Her father’s unfortunate remarriage alienated not only his childre Excellent writing over all, published in 1942 at the height of Zora Neale Hurston’s popularity. The author lived another 18 years, died, was buried in an unmarked grave and remained largely ignored until novelist, Alice Walker, looked into her and her work with a view to having Hurston recognized by new generations. The title probably refers to Hurston’s tumbleweed existence from her youth onward. Her mother died when she was 14. Her father’s unfortunate remarriage alienated not only his children but also his entire Baptist congregation. She seems to have never looked back. During her travels, Zora found work where she could, but going to school was always her dream and eventually she realized it. She graduated from Howard University, in her words, ‘It is to the Negro what Harvard is to the whites.’ Later she got a scholarship to Barnard and graduated from there in 1928. Then she was on the road again doing research, which she called formalized curiosity, poking and prying with a purpose. There is one brief description of her participation in a ceremony where she to ‘meet the Devil and make a compact’. She said it took her months to doubt it afterwards. I debated not finishing the book at this point, but decided to see if she had any further observations or consequences from this bit of ‘research’. The chapter ended with a dismissive comment attributing science as the power behind Voodoo. For her sake, I pray the enemy looked at things that way as well. There was an entire chapter devoted to Religion which was certainly unique, but also confirming. For example, she says prayer is, ‘folly ... the highest form of sacrilege,’ because it is attempting to read the mind of God and get Him to change it. While certainly a pragmatic perspective, if thought completely true—at least to me—is utterly depressing. All that makes Christianity beautiful and desirable is having an accessible, responsive Heavenly Father who listens to us and answers ALL our prayers, perhaps not as we anticipate or intend, yet often in ways better than we can imagine. The best chapter is twelve, My People, My People. Here Hurston writes as anthropologist about her fellow blacks of the early 20th Century. She concludes, ‘Still, if you have received no clear cut impression of what the Negro in America is like, then you are in the same place with me. There is no The Negro here. Our lives are so diversified, internal attitudes so varied, appearances and capabilities so different that there is no possible classification so catholic that it will cover us all, except My people! My People!’ She clearly loves ‘her People’, almost in a maternal sense. Most chapters 3 or 4, one chapter 5, two chapters 1 or 2, for an overall book rating of 3. Sadly, I do not believe I will be reading any more Hurston. Too bad. She is very talented.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jaylia3

    Zora Neale Hurston approaches this moving memoir like a master storyteller, with wonderfully lyrical prose that reminded me a lot of her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God. Loved it.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Dusty

    I read somewhere a quote from Alice Walker that Zora Neale Hurston has a tendency to be exasperating. I think applied to Dust Tracks on a Road that may be putting the matter lightly. Allegedly, the book is a memoir. Hurston is coy about this at its start; she says that after the success of her previous books her publisher asked her -- nearly had to force her -- to put onto paper the narrative of her own life. I would say what we ended up with is rather more the narrative of the life Hurston would I read somewhere a quote from Alice Walker that Zora Neale Hurston has a tendency to be exasperating. I think applied to Dust Tracks on a Road that may be putting the matter lightly. Allegedly, the book is a memoir. Hurston is coy about this at its start; she says that after the success of her previous books her publisher asked her -- nearly had to force her -- to put onto paper the narrative of her own life. I would say what we ended up with is rather more the narrative of the life Hurston would've liked to have had: People who've investigated her biography have revealed that she was born ten years earlier than she claimed and that she almost certainly was not born in Eatonville, Florida, the first all-black American municipality in which she obviously takes so much pride. It's true that every autobiography is a sort of self-fashioning and requires us to read between the lines. But Hurston's autobiography pushes our suspension of disbelief to its limits, while she herself writes about all the liars she's encountered over the course of her research and travels. Anyway, like Walker said: Exasperating. That said, however, the story is quite a romp. The youthful events Hurston describes may or may not have actually happened, but either way they're deliciously written and run the gamut from the poignant to the hilarious. The later chapters, which turn from recounting the past to reflecting on contemporary social issues, particularly the present and future of the so-called "Race question," keep the coy and joyful tone intact. I defy you to find a more energetic criticism of ethnic nationalism than "Seeing the World as It Is," one of the chapters/essays at the end of the book. I've seen other critics remark that the book's chapters don't gel, and while it's true that Dust Tracks is more a collection of essays than a novel or memoir, I wouldn't say that makes the book any less entertaining. After all, what keeps you reading isn't so much the suspense of what's to happen as the force of Hurston's personality. And what a personality! A must-read for anybody interested in Hurston. Recommended for anybody else. Four stars.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Britt

    What is there to say that hasn't already been said? She was a visionary. She is still relevant. Her work is still changing lives.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Zanna

    2.5 stars I feel like Zora was a brilliant, indomitable woman who would have scared me out of my skin if I knew her. I love Henry Louis Gates Jnr's afterword to the edition I read, which discusses the search for a voice in Hurston's work and contemporary black women writers related search for literary ancestors, of whom Zora may be claimed as one... I like her style when it remains concrete; when she strays into abstractions, I start getting bored. I was bewildered by the complex mixture of attitu 2.5 stars I feel like Zora was a brilliant, indomitable woman who would have scared me out of my skin if I knew her. I love Henry Louis Gates Jnr's afterword to the edition I read, which discusses the search for a voice in Hurston's work and contemporary black women writers related search for literary ancestors, of whom Zora may be claimed as one... I like her style when it remains concrete; when she strays into abstractions, I start getting bored. I was bewildered by the complex mixture of attitudes to race she presents. Some of the racist joking around was quite hard to read; while reading on public transport I kept looking around to check nobody who might get hurt by it was in glancing distance of the page. Much energy is spent shrugging off race, suppressing it, even ridiculing concepts of race consciousness and racial solidarity. I can see how this might have seemed a way forward at the time, but the way race keeps coming up even as it's denied, in the text and its contemporary reviews, speaks of the currency it would retain. Nontheless, Hurston's love and enthusiasm for the musical and dance arts of black people in the USA and the Caribbean and of their storytelling is genuine and she brings them to life here along with many vivid characters, among whom she is the blazing star...

  13. 5 out of 5

    Nichole

    I cannot praise this book enough. It's been years since I read anything written by Zora Neale Hurston, and I find myself once again amazed by the hugeness of her life. What lyricism and spunk! She was a vital woman and writer who truly lived in her time. Like many others, I liked her accounts of her childhood and teen years the best. I am aware of why this book had stirred up so much controversy even among her most loyal readers, but I hope I am a little more understanding than her critics. Life I cannot praise this book enough. It's been years since I read anything written by Zora Neale Hurston, and I find myself once again amazed by the hugeness of her life. What lyricism and spunk! She was a vital woman and writer who truly lived in her time. Like many others, I liked her accounts of her childhood and teen years the best. I am aware of why this book had stirred up so much controversy even among her most loyal readers, but I hope I am a little more understanding than her critics. Life can be rough and unfair, and no one is flawless. No one will ever be entirely honest because we are too human. The "straight path" in life will never exist. But, we each have the ability to move past ugliness, help one another, and live our best. This autobiography is a book of lessons, not necessarily a linear account of Zora Neale Hurston's life. Dust Tracks on a Road is the memoir of a survivor and lover of life.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Chris Chapman

    I am fascinated by Hurston's extraordinary up-and-down life - towards the end of it she worked as a maid, while still publishing stories and newspaper articles. The woman was simply a force of nature - to illustrate this, Their Eyes Were Watching God, a work of great beauty, was written in seven weeks in Haiti, while she was doing anthropological field work there. Unfortunately this memoir was a little underwhelming. What a hodge-podge! Some of it does class as autobiography, in that she tells t I am fascinated by Hurston's extraordinary up-and-down life - towards the end of it she worked as a maid, while still publishing stories and newspaper articles. The woman was simply a force of nature - to illustrate this, Their Eyes Were Watching God, a work of great beauty, was written in seven weeks in Haiti, while she was doing anthropological field work there. Unfortunately this memoir was a little underwhelming. What a hodge-podge! Some of it does class as autobiography, in that she tells the story of her life. But then she seems to have seized the opportunity to mend fences with people she had misunderstandings with, salute a long list of friends, hold forth on various subjects in rambling fashion, and settle accounts with people who wronged her (OK the story of her whipping the ass of her stepmother who apparently manoevred her father into excommunicating all of his children - Hurston herself received a message while at boarding school, suggesting that maybe the school would adopt her - is pretty amusing). Don't bother with the appendix, it contains some of the worst of these ramblings, and even repeats three stories she told in the main text. Having said that, we do learn the extraordinary story of how she got an education against all odds, and turned herself into a novelist and anthropologist, whilst almost as a sideline introducing the American public to hitherto unappreciated forms of Caribbean dance. It was written before her career took a downturn. She was buried in an unmarked grave and it wasn't until 14 years later that Alice Walker tracked it down, wrote about her and sparked a ZNH revival.

  15. 4 out of 5

    El

    (I read this book as part of a reading project I have undertaken with some other nerdy friends in which we read The Novel: A Biography and some of the other texts referenced by Schmidt.) I recently re-read Their Eyes Were Watching God and didn't love it as much as most other readers. I read this soon thereafter, and I have to say I found it to be a much more interesting read. I understand that it was not received well critically; even her number-one-fan, Alice Walker, apparently didn't care much (I read this book as part of a reading project I have undertaken with some other nerdy friends in which we read The Novel: A Biography and some of the other texts referenced by Schmidt.) I recently re-read Their Eyes Were Watching God and didn't love it as much as most other readers. I read this soon thereafter, and I have to say I found it to be a much more interesting read. I understand that it was not received well critically; even her number-one-fan, Alice Walker, apparently didn't care much for this book. But I found it authentic in a way that I felt was lacking a smidge in Their Eyes. Obviously this book is an autobiography, and Their Eyes was not. But even so, I feel most fiction tends to have quite a few autobiographical moments whether it was the author's intent or not. Anyone interested in Hurston at all should read this book. She writes quite a bit about her childhood which is charming in just how imaginative she was. At times her anecdotes would get a bit too long-winded which then detracted some of the original charm, but overall I found reading her memories an interesting insight into the mind of a quality writer. Hurston was undoubtedly an intelligent woman, even before she went on in her education to become an anthropologist. Her life, not surprisingly, was not always easy, and she doesn't shy away from talking about the more difficult part of her growth - from the death of her mother to fighting with her stepmother to going to Baltimore to live with her brother to having to go off on her own to care for other people. She was open about her experiences which I appreciated, though, again, she did sometimes take stories on a little further than I felt was necessary, so there is some repetition. Overall, though, this is a great read and makes me want to read even more of her writing. I still have The Complete Stories on my stacks at home, and I will be tackling that soon. I thought it might be interesting to read the book she was best known for (Their Eyes), followed by her autobiography, then followed with her short stories. I feel I'm getting a well-rounded Hurston reading experience.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Oakes

    4.5 for now (since I've got a stack of books to post about): Let's just say I enjoyed this book (and the author) so much that I just bought two more of her novels, Jonah's Gourd Vine and Moses, Man of the Mountain, a biography (which I got today -- Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston), and preordered Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick: Stories from the Harlem Renaissance by this author, which comes out in January. I love her writing style, but as I said, more later. I ca 4.5 for now (since I've got a stack of books to post about): Let's just say I enjoyed this book (and the author) so much that I just bought two more of her novels, Jonah's Gourd Vine and Moses, Man of the Mountain, a biography (which I got today -- Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston), and preordered Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick: Stories from the Harlem Renaissance by this author, which comes out in January. I love her writing style, but as I said, more later. I can highly recommend it, though, for sure.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Morgan

    "Light came to me when I realized that I did not have to consider any racial group as a whole. God made them duck by duck and that was the only way I could see them. I learned that skins were no measure of what was inside people. So none of the Race cliché meant anything anymore. I began to laugh at both white and black who claimed special blessings on the basis of race. Therefore I saw no curse in being black, nor no extra flavor by being white." To me, this quote pretty much summarizes Zora's p "Light came to me when I realized that I did not have to consider any racial group as a whole. God made them duck by duck and that was the only way I could see them. I learned that skins were no measure of what was inside people. So none of the Race cliché meant anything anymore. I began to laugh at both white and black who claimed special blessings on the basis of race. Therefore I saw no curse in being black, nor no extra flavor by being white." To me, this quote pretty much summarizes Zora's philosophy on life. I've said this once and I'll say it again: Zora was Zora. She wasn't trying to be anyone but herself. This isn't a "feel sorry for me" autobiography. This is a "this is who I am" autobiography. She was a storyteller and a somewhat of a humorist and that is what you will get reading this I hope. I think most people know Zora as the author of Their Eyes Were Watching God. I did love that book, but that's not the only thing she wrote. She was a very talented woman and deserves more credit than being the author of that book. She wrote a ton about folklore. She grew up liking fairy tales and mythology stories. She did a lot of traveling and gathered oral stories to put on paper for the world to read. Even though this is non-fiction, I liked the fact it read like a Zora folktale as well. I honestly like her views on race. I don't talk about it much, but I share the same views as her and were not even the same race or sex. She believed that race didn't define who you were as a person. She saw good and bad in all race. It's funny reading this because she was living in a time oddly similar to what is happening now. Yet her view points are polar to what the social media likes to claim which is true. She didn't agree with Democrats, Socialist, or Communist. She didn't like people who took pride in there race nor did she like them forming groups. To her blacks were not a group, but individual people. She'll even admit blacks don't get along with other blacks. She didn't get along with her "folks" either. All she had to do was say she was a Republican and they would turn the other way. Although, most people think she would be a Libertarian today. I also love what she said about her writing. Her first book wasn't liked by her black peers. It wasn't politically angry enough for them. I haven't read her first book yet, but doesn't seem like it has anything to do with politics. Her whole life she just wanted to write about what she wanted to write about. Apparently, she had people telling her what to write. This isn't mentioned in the this book because it's after, but her last book was abut a white woman and she was told blacks can't write about whites...well she proved them wrong. I really loved this book and I love Zora. She teaches me not to fall into a label. Be myself. She also teaches me to move on with my life. Love the here and now. Don't bottle up emotions from the past because i'm are only hurting yourself. If I ever write an autobiography I hope to produce something like this, not exactly like this, but clearly this book inspired me more than I thought. This book is get for independent thinking.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    This autobiography is a collection of memories and short stories. Zora Neal Hurston uses her life as a backdrop to let a loose plot unfold. Her talent as a storyteller shines through and is the star of the book. She paints vivid pictures, and the pace is just right. Hurston tells us what she wants us to hear and leaves out quite a bit, but I didn’t really want more. She told me the one thing I wanted to know which was what was going on in her mind when she wrote Her Eyes Were Watching God. In my This autobiography is a collection of memories and short stories. Zora Neal Hurston uses her life as a backdrop to let a loose plot unfold. Her talent as a storyteller shines through and is the star of the book. She paints vivid pictures, and the pace is just right. Hurston tells us what she wants us to hear and leaves out quite a bit, but I didn’t really want more. She told me the one thing I wanted to know which was what was going on in her mind when she wrote Her Eyes Were Watching God. In my opinion, that book is a Harlem Renaissance masterpiece. If I was left wanting anything, it was more about her process in writing it. I’m going to let everyone else debate about Hurston’s politics, plagiarism or whatever. This book is intriguing, interesting and entertaining. I'm going with 5 stars all the way.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lulu

    I have a serious girl crush on Zora Neale Hurston! Her personality was a thing of beauty. I think I smiled 90% of the time while reading this book!! I wish I could have met her, gone to a book signing or something, but she left me with some hope at the end of this book. “Maybe all of us who do not have the good fortune to meet, or meet again, in this world, will meet at a barbecue.”

  20. 4 out of 5

    Morgan

    It is very much situated in Hurston’s internal life which is vivid and magical. It is definitely a writer’s story. We get a distinct picture of the genesis of Hurston as a writer from a young child playing mostly by herself and inventing stories to an introverted youth who spent as much time as possible with her face in a book to an anthropologist who traveled to the American South and to the West Indies collecting the stories of others. Hurston is first and foremost a story teller but one drive It is very much situated in Hurston’s internal life which is vivid and magical. It is definitely a writer’s story. We get a distinct picture of the genesis of Hurston as a writer from a young child playing mostly by herself and inventing stories to an introverted youth who spent as much time as possible with her face in a book to an anthropologist who traveled to the American South and to the West Indies collecting the stories of others. Hurston is first and foremost a story teller but one driven by lush descriptions and imaginary narratives. Most of the action in this book is all in Hurston’s head. She was someone who truly lived the life of the mind. Much of the book leaves you feeling as if she had no real intimacy with anyone besides herself. This couldn’t possibly be the case but her personal relationships remain mostly private. Towards the end of the book, we get a quick peak at Hurston the lover in an eleven paged chapter entitled Love. Despite the cursory nature of this section, Hurston does make eloquent and beautiful observations, but she keeps most things to herself. She writes: “What I do know, I have no intention of putting but so much in the public ears.” As a whole I really enjoyed this book but I feel, like all texts, it must be viewed in the context in which it was written- I don’t doubt Hurston’s commitment to individuality or her understanding of race markers as socially constructed but the highlighting of all the white people who helped her along the way seems bizarrely self-conscious as Maya Angelou has noted. I have to wonder if these parts were emphasized in order to mollify a white audience. Not surprisingly- there are no thoughts on reparations here, a point Hurston emphasizes several times throughout the book and again in the appendix. She is so firmly couched in individualism that she commits herself to the causes of no group even as she eloquently details the hypocrisy of foreign policy in Seeing the World As It Is. My People! My People! seems to contradict her passionate belief in individualism as she ends with several generalizations on black folks- many of which made me cringe. What could have been an indictment of essentialism instead reinforces stereotypes. I could have definitely skipped this essay and been happy but the insightful and prescient nature of Seeing the World As It Is and Religion more than make up for the rest of the appendix. Religion made all the hairs stand up on my neck as it describes so precisely what is continuing to happen today with our current political climate. It would have made an excellent addition to Jesus Camp for sure.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    A solid memoir about a fascinating life and an under-appreciated writer.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jeni Pearson

    This book was beyond my expectations. The visualization of the characters influences, were exceptional! Overall, I loved how she found herself...LOVING ME!!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Thomas

    This is an interesting, beautifully written, somewhat meandering autobiography. If you’re looking for the story of the author’s life, you’ll only find a bit of it, not just because she wrote it long before she died but because she doesn’t really give us a very coherent account of the events of her life. We get lots of information about her childhood, early days and the somewhat violent and bloody-minded society she grew up in but we don’t get much information about her literary career. She menti This is an interesting, beautifully written, somewhat meandering autobiography. If you’re looking for the story of the author’s life, you’ll only find a bit of it, not just because she wrote it long before she died but because she doesn’t really give us a very coherent account of the events of her life. We get lots of information about her childhood, early days and the somewhat violent and bloody-minded society she grew up in but we don’t get much information about her literary career. She mentions many of the things she did along with their trips to gather folklore but it’s not constructed in any kind of linear way. She seems determined to be very even-handed in a depiction of good and bad people both black and white. Her grandmother was horrible. How a man who behaved like her father could be a preacher in any religion is beyond me. Her vocation as a folklorist, and anthropologist infiltrates the writing on many levels. This is the first autobiography I ever read that seems to incorporate magical realism. The latter part of the book is filled with long discussions of her views on a variety of subjects including race, love, politics, friendship and California vs Florida. We get little snippets and anecdotes from her life along the way. There’s some weird stuff here. I guess you’ll have to decide whether or not you believe that she really did, as a child, have prophetic dreams and visions that gave her a preview of her future. Personally, it makes me wonder just how reliable and narrator she really is. Far from objective, I suppose. She goes on long rants about a variety of subjects and I had a difficult time putting my finger on exactly what she believes. She definitely didn’t want to be a crusader against racism. She just wanted to get on with her life. I find that I am very sympathetic toward her views on race. Race is an outmoded concept, a social construction rather than a biological reality, and it deserves to die. There is only one race that matters, the human race which comes in many shades from very pale to almost black. Hurston believed that the color of your skin counted for nothing, which was amazing and wonderful considering the times she lived in I wonder how trying to ignore Jim Crow and the other manifestations of the racist society she had to live in worked out for her in the end. I understand she didn’t die under the most pleasant circumstances. That makes me sad because she was very talented and deserves far more recognition during her lifetime that she got. In any case, don’t read this if you’re looking for a coherent account of her life. Read this for the gorgeous writing. If you go into it with that idea, you won’t be disappointed.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Marti

    This was overall, an enjoyable autobiography (despite the occasional pedantic sounding essays). However, it certainly did not seem to tell the whole story in that Hurston sought to distance herself from members of her own race who were not as educated. Also, I was expecting to hear about the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s; but there was very little of that, and the focus was more on her work and study than her personal life. At some point I would be interested in reading one of her novels becau This was overall, an enjoyable autobiography (despite the occasional pedantic sounding essays). However, it certainly did not seem to tell the whole story in that Hurston sought to distance herself from members of her own race who were not as educated. Also, I was expecting to hear about the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s; but there was very little of that, and the focus was more on her work and study than her personal life. At some point I would be interested in reading one of her novels because she is a gifted writer with a unique perspective in that she grew up in the South, but was largely shielded from much of the unpleasantness of Jim Crow America (as she explains, the town she grew up in was an anomaly which was governed by and for the black workers at the wealthy enclave in the neighboring town). Apparently, some time after this book was written in the 1940s, the Hurston fell on hard times and was forgotten until her books were rediscovered in the 1990's. Her life would probably be a lot more interesting in the hands of a biographer who would tell the whole story, warts and all.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Batgrl (Book Data Kept Elsewhere)

    Will add more quotes when I reread. For now, here are quotes from Written By Herself. I think this book is the best of all Hurston's works that I've read, and shows her strengths as a writer and storyteller. p. 36"In the classroom I got along splendidly. The only difficulty was that I was rated as sassy. I just had to talk back at established authority and that established authority hated backtalk worse than barbed-wire pie. My immediate teachers were enthusiastic about me. It was the guardians of Will add more quotes when I reread. For now, here are quotes from Written By Herself. I think this book is the best of all Hurston's works that I've read, and shows her strengths as a writer and storyteller. p. 36"In the classroom I got along splendidly. The only difficulty was that I was rated as sassy. I just had to talk back at established authority and that established authority hated backtalk worse than barbed-wire pie. My immediate teachers were enthusiastic about me. It was the guardians of study-hour and prayer meetings who felt that their burden was extra hard to bear."Must now remember to use the phrase "worse than barbed-wire pie" somewhere; it's too good not to quote. 40 - "I will not go so far as to say that I was poorly dressed, for that would be bragging. The best I can say is that I could not be arrested for indecent exposure." Another example of why she is so wonderfully quotable, p. 43:"...They did not know of the way an average Southern child, white or black, is raised on simile and invective. They know how to call names. It is an everyday affair to hear somebody called a mullet-headed, mule-eared, wall-eyed, hog-nosed, 'gator-faced, shad-mouthed, screw-necked, goat-belled, puzzle-gutted, camel-backed, butt-sprung, battle-hammed, knock-kneed, razor-legged, box-ankled, shovel-footed, unmated so and so! Eyes looking like skint-ginny nuts, and mouth looking like a dishpan full of broke-up crockery! They can tell you in simile exactly how you walk and smell. They can furnish a picture gallery of your ancestors, and a notion of what your children will be like. What ought to happen to you is full of images and flavor. Since that stratum of the Southern population is not given to book-reading, they take their comparisons right out of the barnyard and the woods. When they get through with you, you and your whole family look like an acre of totem-poles." 44 - "The wish to be back in school had never left me. But alone by myself and feeling it over, I was scared. Before the job I had been lonely; I had been bare and bony of comfort and love. Working with these people I had been sitting by a warm fire for a year and a half and gotten used to the feel of peace. Now I was to take up my pilgrim's stick and go outside again." 44 - "But his looks only drew my eyes in the beginning. I did not fall in love with him just for that. He had a fine mind and that intrigued me. When a man keeps beating me to the draw mentally, he begins to get glamorous." p.51:"I wrote Their Eyes Were Watching God in Haiti. It was dammed up in me, and I wrote it under internal pressure in seven weeks. I wish I could write it again. In fact, I regret all of my books. It is one of the tragedies of life that one cannot have all the wisdom one is ever to possess in the beginning. Perhaps , it is just as well to be rash and foolish for a while. If all writers were too wise, perhaps no books would be written at all." Dust Tracks; Chapter: Concert, additional chapter from Folklore, Memoirs, & Other Writings p. 804: "On January 10, 1932, I presented a Negro Folk Concert at the John Golden Theater in New York. I am not a singer, a dancer, nor even a musician. I was, therefore, seeking no reputation in either field. I did the concert because I knew that nowhere had the general public ever heard Negro music as done by Negroes. There had been numerous concerts of Negro spirituals by famous Negro singers, but none as it was done by, let us say, Macedonia Baptist Church. They had been tampered with by musicians, and had their faces lifted to the degree that when real Negroes heard them, they sat back and listened just like white audiences did. It was just as strange to them as to the Swedes, for example. Beautiful songs and arrangements but going under the wrong titles. ...my years of research accented this situation inside of me and trouble me. Was the real voice of my people never to be heard? This ersatz Negro music was getting on. It was like the story from Hans Christian Anderson where the shadow became a man.That would not have been important if the arrangements had been better music than the originals, but they were not." p 805: "...They were highly flavored with Bach and Brahms, and Gregorian chants, but why drag them in? It seemed to me a determined effort to squeeze all of the rich black juice out of the songs and present a sort of musical octoroon to the public. Like some more "passing for white." p 808: "But this I do know, that people became very much alive to West Indian dancing and work songs. I have heard myself over the air dozens of times and felt the influence of that concert running through what has been done since."

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Reading her autobiography made me wish I could have been friends with [Zora Neale Hurston]. She knows how to tell a story, her sense of humor is wicked, and she seems absolutely fearless. Her story begins with the town where she was born, and progresses, mostly chronologically, until about chapter 16. From chapter 16 on, the autobiography reads like a series of essays on her life, the times, things she has observed. Her story is fascinating, and well worth the read. I am going to include a bunch Reading her autobiography made me wish I could have been friends with [Zora Neale Hurston]. She knows how to tell a story, her sense of humor is wicked, and she seems absolutely fearless. Her story begins with the town where she was born, and progresses, mostly chronologically, until about chapter 16. From chapter 16 on, the autobiography reads like a series of essays on her life, the times, things she has observed. Her story is fascinating, and well worth the read. I am going to include a bunch of quotes, as that tells more than my review possibly can. Quotes: There is something about poverty that smells like death. Dead dreams dropping off the heart like leaves in a dry season and rotting around the feet; impulses smothered too long in the fetid air of underground caves. The soul lives in a sickly air. People can be slave-ships in shoes. -------------------- It was only that night in bed that I analyzed the whole thing and realized that I was giving sanction to Jim Crow, which theoretically, I was supposed to resist. But here were ten Negro barbers, three porters and two manicurists all stirred up at the threat of our living through loss of patronage. Nobody thought it out at the moment. It was an instinctive thing. That was the first time it was called to my attention that self-interest rides over all sorts of lives. ------------------- ...It impressed upon me the universal nature of greed and glory. Lack of power and opportunity passes off too often for virtue. If I were King, let us say, over the Western Hemisphere tomorrow, instead of who I am, what would I consider right and just? Would I put the cloak of Justice on my ambition and send her out a-whoring after conquests? ------------------- Once when they used to set their mouths in what they thought was the Boston Crimp, and ask me about the great differences between the ordinary Negro and the "better-thinking Negro," I used to show my irritation by saying I did not know who the better-thinking Negro was. I knew who the think-they-are-better Negroes were, but who were the better-thinkers was another matter... So I sensed early, that the Negro race was not one band of heavenly love. There was stress and strain inside as well as out. Being black was not enough. It took more than a community of skin color to make your love come down on you. That was the beginning of my peace. ------------------- Who can know the outer ranges of friendship? I am tempted to say that no one can live without it. It seems to me that trying to live without friends, is like milking a bear to get cream for your morning coffee. It is a whole lot of trouble, and then not worth much after you get it. ------------------- I have been in Sorrow's kitchen and licked out all the pots. Then I have stood on the peaky mountain wrappen in rainbows, with a harp and a sword in my hands.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    Four years after writing Janie Mae’s journey in Their Eyes, Zora Neale Hurston was persuaded by her editor, J. B. Lippincott, to write her autobiography. The result was Dust Tracks on A Road, the partly fictionalized tale of a persona named Zora and her geographical, spiritual, and intellectual journey from Eatonville to New York and beyond. Their Eyes and Dust Tracks contain pronounced similarities in themes and in plot, and a comparison illuminates Hurston’s use of the journey motif. A restles Four years after writing Janie Mae’s journey in Their Eyes, Zora Neale Hurston was persuaded by her editor, J. B. Lippincott, to write her autobiography. The result was Dust Tracks on A Road, the partly fictionalized tale of a persona named Zora and her geographical, spiritual, and intellectual journey from Eatonville to New York and beyond. Their Eyes and Dust Tracks contain pronounced similarities in themes and in plot, and a comparison illuminates Hurston’s use of the journey motif. A restless desire to move and learn drives both Janie and Zora beyond the worlds that stifle them and toward the realization of their uncompromised, essential selves. The tenacity to seek new experiences and risk failure in increasingly more complex arenas comes naturally to both women. In Their Eyes, Janie defines herself by seeking her dream of fulfilling relationships. In Dust Tracks, Zora sees each person she encounters as a new stage in her journey, and she defines herself through the magnifying glass of these relationships. In each chapter of her autobiography, Hurston offers thoughts about the personal relationships she remembers, all of which serve to deepen her awareness of her skills, her needs, and herself. "While I am still far below the allotted span of time, and notwithstanding, I feel that I have lived. I have the joy and pain of strong friendships. I have served and been served. I have made enemies of which I am not ashamed. I have been faithless, and then I have been faithful and steadfast until the blood ran down into my shoes…What waits for me in the future? I do not know. I cannot even imagine, and I am glad for that. But already, I have touched the four corners of the horizon, for from hard searching it seems to me that tears and laughter, love and hate, make up the sum of life." --Dust Tracks on A Road, Zora Neale Hurston

  28. 4 out of 5

    Shauna

    This one was a slow read for me; I wasn't all that interested in her childhood years and kept putting the book down, but I got more interested once she entered adulthood and got the ball rolling (being on a plane with little other options helped, too). The only other book I've read of hers is Their Eyes Were Watching God, and I didn't like it all that much (a little too much romance for me), but once I got into this book, I really liked it. She writes very thoughtfully, and she's also very funny. This one was a slow read for me; I wasn't all that interested in her childhood years and kept putting the book down, but I got more interested once she entered adulthood and got the ball rolling (being on a plane with little other options helped, too). The only other book I've read of hers is Their Eyes Were Watching God, and I didn't like it all that much (a little too much romance for me), but once I got into this book, I really liked it. She writes very thoughtfully, and she's also very funny. I was especially interested in her thoughts about race, even if there were a few I didn't agree with(particularly her general sense of, Well, slavery happened and that sucked, but let's let bygones be bygones). And her life in general was interesting. It's hard not to be inspired by a black woman who worked hard to get a college education in the 1920s and went on to become an anthropologist and an author. You go, Zora.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Craig

    Full of voice, but lacking in momentum.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Larry Bassett

    I listened to this autobiography in the audible version while I simultaneously read along with a e-book version. The two presentations were not absolutely simultaneous. The audible version contained some additional previously unpublished material in a variety of locations. These additions were apparently made in 1996. The author died in 1962. This autobiography was published originally in 1942. The final years of the authors life were apparently difficult years and when she died she was buried i I listened to this autobiography in the audible version while I simultaneously read along with a e-book version. The two presentations were not absolutely simultaneous. The audible version contained some additional previously unpublished material in a variety of locations. These additions were apparently made in 1996. The author died in 1962. This autobiography was published originally in 1942. The final years of the authors life were apparently difficult years and when she died she was buried in an unmarked grave that was located by Alice Walker in approximately 1975. Walker also renewed interest in ms. Hurston at that time. The professional career of the author also included considerable time spent in the Southeast and the Caribbean locating and studying folktales of black communities. One of the real assets of the audible version of the story is that it includes some presentations of that material that were included in the autobiography. The author struggled for at least the first two decades of her life bouncing around various homes after her mother’s death when she was nine. She was also always very drawn to literature although she spent some of her younger days in circumstances separated from Books. She was always quite bright although she worked at a number of relatively menial jobs at a young age but was eventually given some good opportunities by white people who recognized her talent.

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