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Zora Neale Hurston's Final Decade Hardcover – April 3, 2011

4.8 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Moylan's goal—"to freshly interpret" Zora Neale Hurston's tumultuous final decade, rocked by scandal and the author's controversial political views—is ill-met by this well-intentioned but clunky biography. Moylan, founding member of the Fort Pierce, Fla., Annual Zora Festival, draws heavily on two texts (Valerie Boyd's biography Wrapped in Rainbows, and Carla Kaplan's edition of Hurston's letters, Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters), supplemented by a number of interviews with the employers, acquaintances, and friends of Hurston's last decade. After a brief biographical sketch of Hurston's early years, Moylan addresses, in term-paperish prose, the false child molestation charges that, even after they were recanted, left Hurston's reputation in tatters, and her very controversial (in Moylan's words, "eccentric") objections to Brown v. Board of Education and desegregation on the grounds that, in her perspective, "racial uplift" would come by individual effort alone. Hurston's final creative projects—her development of an "anthropologically correct" black baby doll and planned biography of King Herod attest to how the famously idiosyncratic and iconoclastic writer remained deeply unpredictable and fascinating, and that her "lost years" merit a thoughtful and thorough biography. Unfortunately, this meandering, amateurish account isn't it. (Mar.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

REVIEW.
First published March 1, 2011 (Booklist). 

In 1948, Hurston’s promising though iconoclastic career was nearly ruined by false accusations of child molestation. Sensationalized reporting by some in the black press added to a despair that drove Hurston nearly to suicide. But she returned to Florida, the setting of many of her works and a place of respite, where she continued to write for the next 12 years. Hurston also stirred up controversy by opposing the Brown decision and forced desegregation and developing friendships with politicians disfavored by civil rights veterans. Estranged from the black establishment, she nonetheless worked for racial justice, covering the trial of a black woman in Florida charged with the murder of her white lover, a prominent doctor. Hurston struggled with illness and penury before dying in a nursing home at 69, with her books out of print. Moylan interviewed Hurston’s friends and neighbors and drew on archival material, including never-before-published letters, to offer this look at the final decade in the life of a woman who was a writer, an anthropologist, and a folklorist unafraid to challenge conventions. — Vanessa Bush

Review

"With a cover designed to resemble the Harper Perennial editions of Hurston's fiction, this book embodies the affirmative spirit of its subject. This is so even though Moylan (independent scholar) is chronicling Hurston's last, difficult decade, in which she was unemployed, her works were out of print, and her solidarity with the African American community was diminished by her dislike of the Supreme Court's desegregation ruling. Despite some mistakes (e.g., the right-wing Florida senator Hurston supported was Spessard Holland, not "Spencer"), Moylan proves a reliable, informative guide. The reader learns about unfinished projects like the picaresque "The Lives of Barney Turk." She provides a crucial, deft analysis of Hurston's unpublished novel on King Herod the Great, in which Hurston attempted both an anticommunist allegory and a revision of normative biblical history. And Moylan gives a judicious account of Hurston's attitude toward desegregation, writing that Hurston feared it would rob "black children of traditions that contributed to their individual and cultural identities." Hurston got it wrong, but few people got both anticommunism and antiracism right in that era. Moylan shows that however uncomfortable one might feel with Hurston's later years, they are an integral part of this great American writer's story. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division" --Choice

undergraduates and above. N. Birns The New School

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of Florida; 1 edition (April 3, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813035783
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813035789
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,846,794 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
Virginia Lynn Moylan has performed an invaluable service in her study of Hurston's last ten years. Her account builds on archival research, interviews with people who knew Hurston, and intense exploration of the places Hurston lived in and wrote about. We now know much more about her political stances, her take on the Ruby McCollom trial, her often contentious relations with her employers, and her many warm and varied friendships with Floridians of all kinds, from the celebrated writer Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings to the inhabitants of the institution for the poor where Hurston died. Along the way, Moylan revisits the last publications, Hurston's unfinished manuscripts - including her last novel, HEROD THE GREAT - and the unrealized plans for future projects. Moylan's work richly complements the considerable contributions of the earlier biographers Hemenway, Boyd, and Plant; no Zoraphile can do without this book.
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wonderful book about this part of her life. I live near Florida and the areas where she lived so reading about it makes you feel a little bit like you where there. This book is a nice addition to my library section about her and her works. I'm a big fan of Ms. Hurston's life as well as her stories.
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Format: Paperback
When I read a new author, in this case, Their Eyes Were Watching God, I always want to know about the author and always read a short bio before, during or after reading the book they wrote.

Hurston's name was very familiar because I knew she lived and had a strong connection to St. Augustine. I, too, read it and gave it five stars. Reading the book drew me to find out more about Hurston and her connection to St. Augustine.

Hurston was nationally known as a folklorist, anthropologist and author. She was an outspoken pubic figure who never shied away from controversy.

The early part of her life promised a fulfilling life of writing and travel, however according to what I had read, that was not the case. After reading a short bio there was a reference to a molestation charge while she was living in Harlem and that she died in abject poverty in a welfare home.

When I came across this excellent book by Virginia Lynn Moylan it seemed the ideal read for my curious nature as to the last years of Zora Neal Hurston.

The book written by a Florida author Moylan, proved to be much more than I expected. There were many more references to St. Augustine and the author even acknowledged to my surprise, local folks, some of which I've known all my life.

Hurston was also very good friends with Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings who lived in St. Augustine (and Cross Creek and Crescent Beach as well) with her husband Norton Baskin, a hotelier who owned Castle Warden Hotel (built in the 1880's by an employee of Henry Flagler) and is now Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museum. Hurston stayed with the Rawlings at the hotel and corresponded for years with Rawlings.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Lynn Moylan, the author of "Zora Neale Hurston's Final Decade", conducts her work with stellar scholarship and a heart full of admiration for the author who spent her last years in and around Ft. Pierce, Florida, where Moylan lives. Placing Zora Neale Hurston within the small Florida communities where she resided until her death - Belle Glade (1950-51), Eau Gallie (1951-1956) and Ft. Pierce (1956-1960) - is no small feat. There is scant information from this period and few people alive today to tell that story, more than fifty years after Hurston's death. Moylan launches her look at this last decade with a short encapsulated chapter of Hurston's life up to that time, then proceeds to detail Zora's interesting relationship with the Creech family of West Palm Beach, a relationship that resulted in the manufacturing of the nation's first "anthropologically-correct black doll". The project was a personal one for Zora's friend Sara Creech, yet more interesting to me are Creech's stories about Hurston's time spent with this white family, happily painting their house with them, dining in their kitchen, discussing race relations and biblical history. That sub-text of the importance to Zora of her everyday life follows through the rest of the book, with Zora putting on her game face about her condition, described as seemingly fine, though we now know things weren't fine and Zora Neale Hurston was on a downward spiral that would result in a diminished life, living near poverty and in ill health, alienated from her own family and separated by 2,000 miles from her friends in the Harlem Renaissance, relying on the kindness of strangers moved by her largesse as a former author and anthropologist.Read more ›
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This is a great book about a fascinating and inspiring woman. I originally purchased it for a class project to write a biographical sketch of an anthropologist of my choice. I'm glad I picked Zora, she had an interesting life!
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