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Dust Tracks on a Road: An Autobiography Paperback – June 19, 1996


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (June 19, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060921684
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060921682
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.3 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #852,459 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

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 high, Dust Tracks on a Road is a rare treasure from one of literature's most cherished voices.

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

In her award-winning autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Road (1942), Zora Neale Hurston claimed to have been born in Eatonville, Florida, in 1901. She was, in fact, born in Notasulga, Alabama, on January 7, 1891, the fifth child of John Hurston (farmer, carpenter, and Baptist preacher) and Lucy Ann Potts (school teacher). The author of numerous books, including Their Eyes Were Watching God, Jonah's Gourd Vine, Mule sand Men, and Moses, Man of the Mountain,Hurston had achieved fame and sparked controversy as a novelist, anthropologist, outspoken essayist, lecturer, and theatrical producer during her sixty-nine years. Hurston's finest work of fiction appeared at a time when artistic and political statements -- whether single sentences or book-length fictions -- were peculiarly conflated. Many works of fiction were informed by purely political motives; political pronouncements frequently appeared in polished literary prose. Hurston's own political statements, relating to racial issues or addressing national politics, did not ingratiate her with her black male contemporaries. The end result was that Their Eyes Were Watching God went out of print not long after its first appearance and remained out of print for nearly thirty years.

Henry Louis Gates, Jr., has been one among many to ask: "How could the recipient of two Guggenheims and the author of four novels, a dozen short stories, two musicals, two books on black mythology, dozens of essays, and a prize winning autobiography virtually 'disappear' from her readership for three full decades?"

That question remains unanswered. The fact remains that every one of Hurston's books went quickly out of print; and it was only through the determined efforts, in the 1970s, of Alice Walker, Robert Hemenway (Hurston's biographer), Toni Cade Bambara, and other writers and scholars that all of her books are now back in print and that she has taken her rightful place in the pantheon of American authors.

In 1973, Walker, distressed that Hurston's writings had been all but forgotten, found Hurston's grave in the Garden of Heavenly Rest and installed a gravemarker. "After loving and teaching her work for a number of years," Walker later reported, "I could not bear that she did not have a known grave." The gravemarker now bears the words that Walker had inscribed there:

ZORA NEALE HURSTON
GENIUS OF THE SOUTH
NOVELIST FOLKLORIST ANTHROPOLOGIST
(1891-1960)

In Brief
Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) was a novelist, folklorist, and anthropologist whose fictional and factual accounts of black heritage are unparalleled. She Is the author of many books, including Their Eyes Were Watching God, Dust Tracks on a Road, Tell My Horse, and Mules and Men.


More About the Author

Zora Neale Hurston was born on Jan. 7, 1891, in Notasulga, Alabama. Hurston moved with her family to Eatonville, Florida, when she was still a toddler. Her writings reveal no recollection of her Alabama beginnings. For Hurston, Eatonville was always home.
Growing up in Eatonville, in an eight-room house on five acres of land, Zora had a relatively happy childhood, despite frequent clashes with her preacher-father. Her mother, on the other hand, urged young Zora and her seven siblings to "jump at de sun."
Hurston's idyllic childhood came to an abrupt end, though, when her mother died in 1904. Zora was only 13 years old.
After Lucy Hurston's death, Zora's father remarried quickly and seemed to have little time or money for his children. Zora worked a series of menial jobs over the ensuing years, struggled to finish her schooling, and eventually joined a Gilbert & Sullivan traveling troupe as a maid to the lead singer. In 1917, she turned up in Baltimore; by then, she was 26 years old and still hadn't finished high school. Needing to present herself as a teenager to qualify for free public schooling, she lopped 10 years off her life--giving her age as 16 and the year of her birth as 1901. Once gone, those years were never restored: From that moment forward, Hurston would always present herself as at least 10 years younger than she actually was.
Zora also had a fiery intellect, and an infectious sense of humor. Zora used these talents--and dozens more--to elbow her way into the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, befriending such luminaries as poet Langston Hughes and popular singer/actress Ethel Waters.
By 1935, Hurston--who'd graduated from Barnard College in 1928--had published several short stories and articles, as well as a novel (Jonah's Gourd Vine) and a well-received collection of black Southern folklore (Mules and Men). But the late 1930s and early '40s marked the real zenith of her career. She published her masterwork, Their Eyes Were Watching God, in 1937; Tell My Horse, her study of Caribbean Voodoo practices, in 1938; and another masterful novel, Moses, Man of the Mountain, in 1939. When her autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Road, was published in 1942, Hurston finally received the well-earned acclaim that had long eluded her. That year, she was profiled in Who's Who in America, Current Biography and Twentieth Century Authors. She went on to publish another novel, Seraph on the Suwanee, in 1948.
Still, Hurston never received the financial rewards she deserved. So when she died on Jan. 28, 1960--at age 69, after suffering a stroke--her neighbors in Fort Pierce, Florida, had to take up a collection for her funeral. The collection didn't yield enough to pay for a headstone, however, so Hurston was buried in a grave that remained unmarked until 1973.
That summer, a young writer named Alice Walker traveled to Fort Pierce to place a marker on the grave of the author who had so inspired her own work.
Walker entered the snake-infested cemetery where Hurston's remains had been laid to rest. Wading through waist-high weeds, she soon stumbled upon a sunken rectangular patch of ground that she determined to be Hurston's grave. Walker chose a plain gray headstone. Borrowing from a Jean Toomer poem, she dressed the marker up with a fitting epitaph: "Zora Neale Hurston: A Genius of the South."

Customer Reviews

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What a strange book.
Timothy A. Gilmore
Sometimes I want to cry Zora has a great story, I am excited.
JWash
I recommend this book for anyone wanting a interseting read.
Jonathan Posey

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 7, 1998
Format: Paperback
Calling forth her memories from within, spinning yarns of the deep south and beyond, Zora Neale Hurston weaves a tapestry of language in her autobiographical Dust Tracks on a Road. Reading the memoirs of this phenomenal woman with such a zest for life, a love of living, one cannot help but get swept away by her eloquent prose, swept away to her childhood in the south.
From her birthplace of Eatonville, Florida, "a pure Negro town", Zora sets out upon her road of life, one often paved with stones, with a smile on her face, and the will of an ox. Her often wicked sense of humor makes this woman's life seem not sad or depressing, but as fun as well as funny. Hurston sees every chance and takes it; sees every downfall as a challenge to be met. Such a will to live, but not just to live, but to live fully, and righteously-- this pure energy comes across in the book, leaping from the pages as if Zora were in the very room. "The primeval in me leaped to life", she recalled at one point, recounting another incident which would be mundane and dull to any other writer, but taken as a wild adventure by Zora.
This book is the proof that even the lowliest of people needn't stay humble and meek; anybody can rise to fully realize their dreams and ambitions. Anybody can be somebody, and Zora is the some-bodiest of them all, leading the parade and twirling the baton of life. This book raises an energy in the reader, an energy of spirit-- of soul. With her energy, Zora has made something of her life, rising to become one of the more prominent writers of the Harlem Renaissance. This book is the truly remarkable account of her early life, her loves, and her energy for life.
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 13, 2002
Format: Paperback
I've just finished reading this book as a summer reading assignment for school, and to my surprise, I found myself actually enjoying it. I went into the reading of this book with reluctance. I've read THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD, and while I enjoyed that book at first, I was always frustrated that the main character had to find herself through dependence on men, namely Tea Cake, whom I despised because of his controlling nature and ultimate betrayal. However, despite my prejudices against it, this book managed to grab my attention.
That is, in the last three chapters. I did not think this book was mostly an account of the other books Hurston has written, as some other readers have stated. Hurston only focused one or two chapters toward the middle of the book on other works, but even then it was only to list when she wrote which book, not to go in depth on the process and motivation. However, it seemed to me that it was an account of Hurston's journey through life, including details on her childhood in Eatonville. This is all well and good, except, especially as Hurston gets into the adult years, she tends to gloss over much of the details, omitting names, and mentioning events which obviously impacted her life yet for some personal reason or another, refusing to describe to the reader these events for fear of who knows what.
This was only the first confusing element. I also had a difficulty with Hurston's writing style. She tends to jump from one anecdote in the middle of another with no explanation before returning to her original story, which left me as the reader, feeling befuddled. The sequence of the chapters, out of her childhood, also does not really seem to follow a sequential storyline.
I was also bothered with Hurston's portrayal of herself, especially her childhood self.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Jelka Klemenc on March 7, 2002
Format: Paperback
Hurston's Dust Tracks on a Road is a true story of a smart little black girl, who has the intelligence and the perseverance to rise above her all-black community, Eatonville, and become a respected and well known novelist,short-story writer, folklorist and anthropologist.
However, it is not a typical autobiography, not in any way. It has often been said that Hurston lived her life 'half in shadow' and this is also characteristic also of this book. It is rare that ,after having read an autobiography, the reader is left without the information of the writer's year of birth, for instance. On the other hand, it is, in the words of Robert E. Hemenway, who also wrote her biography, 'a fascinating self-portrait, despite its inconsistencies, of one of the major black women artists of the twentieth century'.
The main reason for reeding Dust Tracks is its nature, i.e. the way she describes the struggle of a poor black girl to 'secure an education and catch fame'(R.E.Hemenway, Introduction to Dust Tracks on a Road, Second Edition) and the way she manages to collect her reflections and ideas about her own life into three unique chapters at the end of the book.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Ethel M. Powers on July 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
Whenever I think of Ms Hurston, I smile while I am sad. Her life story is a joyous song and while still a judgement on society and an insight on Black America at that time. she was extremely funny and apparently a very kind woman. She was also a wonderful writer and talented one. Her prose was a gift that few can duplicate. If you are into women writers, you must include all her books. If you want to write, you must study her style. You will not be able to put it down and will be upset when you finish because you want there to be more beyond the last page.
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