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

4.4 out of 5 stars 69 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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 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.

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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: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,509,345 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Nora Neale Hurston wrote an interesting autobiography which is basically a "rags to riches" book. Her book is a lesson about rising above one's circumstances. In fact Hurston described herself as "sassy and NEVER accepting apprehensively convention wisdom. In other words, Hurston's book is one of encouragement following one's desires dreams rather than the status quo. The book should be required reading for those who have intellectual dreams but are afraid to try.

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.
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