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Dust Tracks on a Road: An Autobiography Paperback – Deckle Edge, November 2, 2010
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From the Back Cover
First published in 1942 at the heightof her popularity, Dust Tracks ona Road is Zora Neale Hurston’scandid, funny, bold, andpoignant autobiography, animaginative and exuberantaccount of her rise from childhood povertyin the rural South to a prominent placeamong the leading artists and intellectualsof the Harlem Renaissance. As compelling asher acclaimed fiction, Hurston’s very personalliterary self-portrait offers a revealing, oftenaudacious glimpse into the life—publicand private—of an extraordinary artist,anthropologist, chronicler, and champion ofthe Black experience in America. Full of thewit and wisdom of a proud, spirited womanwho started off low and climbed high, DustTracks on a Road is a rare treasure from oneof literature’s most cherished voices.
About the Author
Zora Neale Hurston, the author of Their Eyes Were Watching God, was deemed "one of the greatest writers of our time" by Toni Morrison. With the publication of Lies and Other Tall Tales, The Skull Talks Back, and What's the Hurry, Fox? new generations will be introduced to Hurston's legacy. She was born in Notasulga, Alabama, in 1891, and died in 1960.
More About the Author
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."
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Amazing! How did this spectacular, extremely talented author slip by us all for so many decades? What a jewel! All of her works are superb!Published 4 months ago by Darya
Zora in her own words. A wonderful, readable life story of this famous author.Published 5 months ago by Jean7P
My very favorite author made this a wondrous tale and the language Hurston uses is like music to me,.Published 5 months ago by Cborges
One of my favorite authors! She really captures the human spirit in each of the characters. Insightful and worthy of much greater recognition as an American author.Published 7 months ago by Terry Lariviere
If you haven't read any Hurston, this is where you start:her idea of what matters in her life. She can write a whirlwind,startle you,make you laugh,make you uncomfortable. Read morePublished 9 months ago by John Neufeld
This book gets criticized for lacking meaning, but I enjoy the whimsicality of Hurston's imagination!Published 9 months ago by GeorgeLivingston
How can someone so young have so much wisdom, she must of been born with it this book should be read by everyone. Why have I never heard about her before?Published 10 months ago by gail Boshell