Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Amazon's Book Reviews: Afro-Caribbean Authors — Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston (January 7, 1891 – January 28, 1960) was an American folklorist, anthropologist, and author. Of Hurston's four novels and more than 50 published short stories, plays, and essays, she is best known for her 1937 novel Their Eyes Were Watching God. . . Hurston traveled extensively in the Caribbean and the American South and immersed herself in local cultural practices to conduct her anthropological research. Her work in the South, sponsored from 1928 to 1932 by Charlotte Osgood Mason, a wealthy philanthropist, produced Mules and Men in 1935, often regarded as a folklore classic, as well as the base material for novels like Jonah's Gourd Vine published in 1934. In 1936 and 1937, she traveled to Jamaica and to Haiti with support from the Guggenheim Foundation from which her anthropological work Tell My Horse published in 1938 emerged. Read more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zora_Neale_Hurston

This is a review for Mules and Men by Zora Neale Hurston - Although she really was born in Georgia, Hurston considered Eatonville, Florida her hometown. She originally wrote this work as a play with Langston Hughes. They had planned to call it "Mule Bone," but the two had a falling out prior to staging the work. The theater world's loss was actually the literary and folklore world's gain, and this book is a terrific study of black folklore from Florida and Louisiana. The book has wonderful folktales and descriptions of rootwork, and once the reader becomes acclimated to Hurston's use of black English, it is a pleasure to read. Hurston provided rich commentary by embedding the texts into a narrative about doing fieldwork in the 1920s. It's worth noting that Hurston compressed the amount of fieldwork time in this book as she had spent much more time in Florida than she presents in this work. It's important to keep these types of literary devices in mind when reading her book as she includes lots of allusions, hidden meanings, and clever wordplays to develop fascinating commentary on folklore. Read more: http://www.amazon.com/Mules-Men-Zora-Neale-Hurston/product-reviews/0060916486/ref=dp_top_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1

This is a review for Zora Neale Hurston : Novels and Stories : Jonah's Gourd Vine / Their Eyes Were Watching God / Moses, Man of the Mountain / Seraph on the Suwanee / Selected Stories (Library of America) by Zora Neale Hurston - Zora Neale Hurston is, without a doubt, one of the giants of literature of the last century. Capturing the heart and soul of the deep South--both "colored" and "white"--her works breathe life into the characters she portrays, leaving readers with the "slice of life" they are seeking from an outstanding writer of the period. Now, for the first time, this volume serves the reader the whole pie. Whether Hurston studied the practice of Voodoo in the Caribbean, the folkways of African-Americans in the Old South, or the interrelationships of the races in the society of her time (especially in the trial of Ruby McCollum, which she covered for the Pittsburgh Courier), she tackled her subject with a degree of enthusiasm that is seldom matched. Read more: http://www.amazon.com/Zora-Neale-Hurston-Watching-Mountain/product-reviews/0940450836/ref=dp_top_cm_cr_acr_txt?showViewpoints=1

This is a review for Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica by Zora Neale Hurston - This book includes a small section on Jamaica but concentrates mainly on vodou practices in Haiti. I am impressed with Hurston's skill as a travel writer in the section on Jamaica. The images from the island are vivid and written in a lush style. She includes lots of descriptions of Jamaicans' folk culture; the sections on spiritual beings called "duppies" is especially rich. The major focus of the book, however, is on Haiti in general and vodou in particular. Hurston's style is even more impressive in this section. Some passages, such as her blending of mythic images with history, are characteristic of some of her finest writing. The content is equally spectacular, as she writes vibrantly about a range of spiritual beliefs, practices, and rituals. Some of the more fantastical elements, including a description of a corpse that sat upright in a funeral ritual and a photograph of a living zombie seem more like ethnographic fiction than valid social scientific work. As a result, some have dismissed this book as more of a travelogue or even a fictionalized ethnography. In recent years, however, scientific studies have supported Hurston's argument that there is a rationalistic, and perhaps even, a-rationalistic basis for what she observed and discussed. In this respect, her in-depth and sympathetic analysis of vodou is much more interesting and much more relevant to the study of religious experience and folk culture in the islands. It also interesting to think about how she was completing the fieldwork in Haiti while she was also writing other works, including "Their Eyes Were Watching God." That aspect of her life history really adds to an understanding of this book, and it adds to an understanding of her novel and numerous short stories. Read more: http://www.amazon.com/Tell-My-Horse-Voodoo-Jamaica/product-reviews/0061695130/ref=dp_top_cm_cr_acr_txt?showViewpoints=1

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