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Dust Tracks on a Road: An Autobiography Paperback – June 19, 1996
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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.--This text refers to the Audio CD 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
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.
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Top Customer Reviews
Robert Hemenways's introduction is useful. While Hemenway described the book as peculiar, he is wrong. Hurston's autobiography is one of inspiration and careful reflection. While Hurston was not necessarily a political activist, whatever that means, she was astute. She scathingly denounced President Truman's order to drop atomic bombs on innocent civilians in August, 1945 when the Japanese were ready to surrender in February, 1945 per the MacArthur Memorandum in February, 1945. She also condemned the "war crimes" trials of Japanese leaders after WW II-whatever a war crime is. As Hurston commented. "...War is war."
The introduction was followed Hurston's description of family life. Hurston's father migrated from Alabama to Florida where he became the mayor of the first incorporated black city in Eatonville, Florida. Hurston's description of the courtship between her parents was amusing. Hurston's father was a Baptist pastor who pestered Hurston's mother by writing notes in hymnals and flirtation. As Hurston wryly responded, her mother married "just to get rid of her father. What may surprise readers is that even among poor segregated blacks in the South, there was a "pecking order" and class distinctions. Hurston's father was of mixed race ancestry and was considered born out of wedlock.
Hurston was consider "sassy" which relatives warned could lead to lynching or shooting. Hurston's father resented her being feisty, but her mother argued that such a feisty attitude was an asset since it could lead to independent thinking. Hurston's mother taught Huston grammar, reading, arithmetic/decimals, and whatever else the mother knew. This was rare among poor segregated blacks in the South.
Hurston also described her childhood friends and the petty spats she had with her friends. For example, had a silly spat that the moon loved one girl more than the other. After an angry exchange, the two girls reconciled their silly spat. Hurston remarked that she liked to break curfew even if it meant a "whipping.
As mentioned above, Hurston was "sassy." She was also very clever. Hurston got into a school in Maryland by lying about her age. She reported to be ten years young than she actually was. Hurston did well in school and was an eager student. In other words, Hurston realized that she was smarter than she was led to believe.
As feisty and determined as Hurston was, she reported on her disappoints which NEVER led to fatalistic despair. When Hurston's mother died, her father remarried, and the second wife forced Hurston out of the house. Hurston had to reside with different family members and was starved for books. She got a break when she was hired as a maid in the North. She also worked as a waitress and got an acting "gig." She saved money and continued learning. She met two friends who were Fanny Hurst and Ethel waters who remained friends for the remainder of their lives.
Hurston wrote a chapter title "My people! My people! which related the vestiges of US race relations. She also related that among blacks, she described them as "uncouth Negros and gentleman Negros. Yet, Hurston never let he success and fame interfere with her relations with others regard of wealth and reputation. Such an attitude influenced Hurston's religious views. She was an agnostic who considered that people were blessed by Father Sun, and that regardless of race, status, or wealth. As Hurston noted, we are part of the Cosmos, and such distinctions have little meaning "in the grand scheme of things."
As stated above, this book should be required reading for young students to inform them what "guts" and determination can achieve regardless of one's social status. Hurston's book is a reminder of that what people can achieve in spite of disappointments and criticism. Her book is a n inspiration and tribute to the human spirit.
James E. Egolf
February 24, 2016
John Neufeld, author of
LISA, BRIGHT AND DARK (on Kindle) and EDGAR ALLAN (also on Kindle).