Zora Neale Hurston: The Woman and the Writer

Powerful Essays
Zora Neale Hurston: The Woman and the Writer

To most people, the name Zora Neale Hurston is associated solely with Their Eyes Were Watching God, her most famous work. In some cases her name is synonymous with the Harlem Renaissance. However, very few people are informed about the aspects of Zora's life that influenced her writing of Their Eyes , nor do they know about how she arrived in New York to become one of the most famous Black female writers of her time. Robert Hemenway's Zora Neale Hurston: A Literary Biography and Valerie Boyd's Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston both seek to educate people about the life of this writer and to give the reader information about her other literary works. Both authors also draw from other sources to tell the story of Zora's life, including interviews with friends and colleagues and Zora's own words.

However, the differences are apparent in terms of what Hemenway and Boyd chose to emphasize and what they do not. In the introduction of Zora Neale Hurston , Hemenway discusses his objectives in writing the biography. “Zora Neale Hurston is a literary artist of sufficient talent to deserve intensive study, as an artist and as an intellect,” he writes. “She deserves an important place in American literary history”(Hemenway xx). In writing the biography, Hemenway is hoping to help push Hurston into her rightful place in the history and achievements of American literary tradition. He also explains that, as a White male author, he does not feel that writing a “ ‘definitive'” biography is his job. He feels that “a definitive book….[should] be written…by a black woman”(Hemenway xx). His main objective in writing Zora Neale Hurston was “to contribute a new, closer exami...

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...ry Louis and McKay, Nellie Y. New York: 1997.

1 Hemenway's interest in critical analysis of her work as well as his audience seems to be explained by his background as an educator. He is currently chancellor of the University of Kentucky, and has been for over thirty years.

2Crisis was the name of the NAACP's magazine during the Harlem Renaissance.

3 Jessie Fauset was another Black female writer of the Harlem Renaissance. According to Norton , she was responsible for the encouragement and discovery of many famous Black Harlem Renaissance writers (Gates and McKay 951).

4 Richard Bruce Nugent, who was, as Boyd puts it, “chronically broke,” lived with Zora briefly and sometimes used her apartment to work on his writing.

5 Madam C.J. Walker was America's first Black self-made millionaire, who was the creator of many hair care products for Black women.
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