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Jonah's Gourd Vine Paperback – January 22, 1990

4.6 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) was a novelist, folklorist, and anthropologist whose fictional and factual accounts of black heritage remain unparalleled. Her many books include Dust Tracks on a Road; Their Eyes Were Watching God; Jonah's Gourd Vine; Moses, Man of the Mountain; Mules and Men; and Every Tongue Got to Confess.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reissue edition (January 22, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060916516
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060916510
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.3 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,672,771 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I always thought of Toni Morrison as the leader, the queen, and the matriarch of black women's fiction, but the more I read of Zora Neale Hurston, the more I feel that everyone else must have taken their cues from her!

Her writing is enchanting and thought provoking, her use of "black" language is absolutely delightful. The story and the characters are interesting in and of themselves. What makes this work really shine is the language, and the heritage and history that it preserves. She takes care to write the way that people speak, resulting a unorthodox spelling and usage that at first I had to say out loud in order to properly understand. (My grandmother didn't have to do that, though, and for that reason alone, she loved Zora Hurston.) Ms. Hurston also uses words, idioms and phrases that are unique to black america, and that my generation would likely have lost -- the news of the "Black Dispatch," "Old Hannah" rising, "hittin' a straight lick with a crooked stick." Some of the sayings I remember my Grandmother using, and some I remember using as a child. I found all of them interesting and beautiful, and I am grateful to Ms. Hurston for finding them valuable enough to put down.
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Format: Paperback
John Buddy Pearson's life got off to a rocky start. His stepfather resented him for his light skin and the fact that another man's blood ran through his veins, and often picked fights with him. John worked hard in the cotton fields on their sharecropping tract, but little could be done to please his stepfather.
John always longed to see what life was like "on the other side of the tracks", so after a particularly serious brawl with his stepfather, he decided to go for it. He moved across the bridge, where children went to school in their free time, and his real father, Alf Pearson, resided on his large plantation. Alf encouraged John to attend the local colored school in his spare moments, and it was here that John first lay eyes on the smart and beautiful, albeit young, Lucy Potts. John, with his high yellow skin and godlike stature, was a favorite among the ladies on the Pearson estate. However, he cast their advances aside as he pined for Lucy.
John and Lucy eventually married and moved to Eatonville, Florida, a "whole town uh nothing but colored folks", where John was called to preach the gospel, honing his already strong speaking skills. John was still a favorite with the ladies, and in a position to do so, he strayed from the mores he was supposed to uphold and engaged in illicit affairs. Thus begun the descension of our character, as his deviant ways became exposed and no longer shrouded in his notoriety.
Zora Neale Hurston's first novel, Jonah's Gourd Vine marks the beginning of a dazzling writer's craft. Peppered with the southern dialect that Hurston is so well-known for, it was, at times, a bit unclear as to what the characters were saying. I found myself saying sentences, and even paragraphs, aloud to discern their meaning.
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Format: Paperback
Every bit as enjoyable as "Their Eyes Were Watching God," Hurston's first novel recounts the rise-and-fall trajectory of John "Buddy" Pearson from a backwoods adolescent to pillar of an all-black community to a philandering preacher. What gives her debut special resonance is that it is a wholly undisguised portrait of her family--not even the names of her siblings have been changed--and she incorporates much of the black folklore, Caribbean mysticism, and African spirituality she encountered in her scholarly research.
Hurston enviably manages to present her father and her long-suffering mother with all their strengths and weaknesses; her account is unsparingly brutal, yearningly affectionate, and remarkably nonjudgmental. (Her portrayal of her wicked, hoodoo-leaning stepmother is less even-handed; here Hurston takes the opportunity for revenge.) A sign of her achievement is that it is hard to tell where fact ends and fiction begins (for example, Hurston's father died in 1917, but John Pearson's story continues through the 1920s).
Even though the story never lags, I found the representation of black Southern dialect hard-going for the first few chapters. After a while, though, you get used to the cadences and colloquialisms, and the reader's diligence is repaid tenfold. "Jonah's Gourd Vine" is one of those surprising discoveries you wished more people had read.
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Format: Paperback
So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city, and there made him a booth, and sat under it in the shadow, till he might see what would become of the city. And the LORD God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceedingly glad of the gourd. But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered. And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live.

And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death. Then said the LORD, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night: And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?

Jonah 4:5-11

Hurston's first novel, published in 1934, is a fictionalized account of the lives of her parents set in the post-Reconstruction South to the years that followed the First World War. The title refers to the Biblical prophet, who cared more about the death of the gourd vine that sheltered him from the sun than the people of the nearby town of Nineveh, who were at risk of annihilation at the hand of God.
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