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Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters. Edited by Carla Kaplan.

African American Letters].

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ISBN 10: 0385490356 / ISBN 13: 9780385490351
Published by Doubleday, New York, 2002
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About this Item

A Fine copy of this Bound Galley edition in illustrated wraps. This volume collects over 500 letters by one of the major literary figures of the Harlem Renaissance. Through letters to such luminaries as Langston Hughes, Alain Locke, Dorothy West, Carl Van Vechten, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, and Fannie Hurst, Hurston expresses the exuberance and trials of her life and work from 1917 to 1959. Kaplan, a leading Hurston scholar at the University of Southern California, calls the letters "one of the few existing sources of personal commentary by a black female intellectual on American life and literature." Spanning the 1920s to the 1950s, Hurston's letters reveal an energetic writer of many voices. The collection includes confiding, sharp-tongued missives to close friends Langston Hughes and Carl Van Vechten; correspondence with Franz Boas. A portrait emerges of a heterodox woman who alienated many of her supporters with her increasingly conservative politics and was hampered all her life by financial troubles and romantic disappointments. Bookseller Inventory # 25631

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters. ...

Publisher: Doubleday, New York

Publication Date: 2002

Edition: Advance Review Copy.

About this title


A landmark collection of more than five hundred letters written by a woman at the heart of the Harlem Renaissanc--an author who remains one of the most intriguing people in American cultural history.

Alice Walker’s 1975 Ms. magazine article "Looking for Zora" reintroduced Zora Neale Hurston to the American literary landscape, and ushered in a virtual renaissance for a writer who was a bestselling author at her peak in the 1930s, but died penniless and in obscurity some three decades later.

Since that rediscovery of novelist, anthropologist, playwright, folklorist, essayist, and poet Zora Neale Hurston, her books--from the classic love story Their Eyes Were Watching God to her controversial autobiography, Dust Tracks on the Road--have sold millions of copies. Hurston is now taught in American, African American, and women's studies courses in high schools and universities from coast to coast.

Now, in Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters, the fascinating life of one of the most enigmatic literary figures of the twentieth century comes alive. Through letters to Harlem Renaissance friends Langston Hughes, Alain Locke, Dorothy West, and Carl Van Vechten, and to bestselling author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and Fannie Hurst, among others, readers experience the exuberance and trials of Hurston’s life. Her letters to her patron, Mrs. Charlotte "Godmother" Osgood Mason, are laced with equal amounts of cynicism and reverence, and offer a fascinating glimpse of the perilously thin line Hurston tread to maintain vital monetary support as she pursued her art and avant-garde lifestyle (which included crossing the country collecting folklore, and a job as story editor at Paramount Pictures in the 1940s).

Meticulously edited and annotated, this landmark collection of letters will provide her fans, as well as those discovering Hurston for the first time, with a penetrating and profound portrait into the life, writings (four novels, a play, an autobiography, and countless essays), and impressive imagination of one of the most amazing characters to grace American letters.


Whatever happened to Zora Neale Hurston? In the 1930s her stories, novels, folklore studies, and plays were all over the bestseller lists. By the '60s she was forgotten--a reversal of fortune captured in the extraordinary collection Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters.

Why did Hurston's star fade? Simple weariness, her correspondence suggests. She was happier, it seems, tilling her Florida garden than revealing her soul to the world. She was also not shy of crossing swords with the likes of W.E.B. Du Bois and Langston Hughes, and in a time of growing militancy and the awakening civil rights movement Hurston became increasingly conservative, developing political stances that, editor Kaplan writes, "have often baffled her admirers." Hurston developed a pen-stilling, probably ungrounded suspicion that anything she wrote would be stolen by other writers, who would "then hate me for being alive to make their pretensions out a lie. And then take all kinds of steps to head me off."

Having enjoyed early fame, Hurston died alone and in poverty. This well-assembled and very welcome book traces her sad path, and it adds much to our understanding of the once-neglected writer. --Gregory McNamee

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