How much do you know about Zora Neale Hurston?
It seems like most people read Their Eyes Were Watching God in high school English class or saw Their Eyes Were Watching God with Halle Berry. But there's more to this fabulous writer than one novel. To celebrate the 125th anniversary of her birth on January 7, let's take a look at some of the more colorful aspects of her life and her work.
Hurston was a maid and wardrobe girl for a traveling theater company while she was in high school. Her writing career began at Howard University, where she published several stories in The Hilltop student newspaper. Not long after that, she joined Harlem Renaissance luminaries like Langston Hughes and Aaron Douglas to publish an avant-garde literary magazine named Fire! Some of Hurston's most important short stories of this time, including "Sweat" and "Spunk," can be found in The Complete Stories.
Hurston's other great body of work was in anthropology. With the help of both personal patrons and academic fellowships, she went to Southern states as well as Jamaica and Haiti to study folk culture in the 1930s. Hurston wrote two books about her studies, Mules and Men and Tell My Horse. While Mules and Men focuses on African-American folklore, Tell My Horse explores the culture surrounding Voodoo in the Caribbean.
While Hurston continued to write fiction, her most successful book was her autobiography, Dust Tracks on A Road. Even though the book is more about the persona that she wanted to portray, rather than who she actually was, Dust Tracks is still an engaging portrait of Zora Neale Hurston in her own words and a wonderful way to celebrate this great American author.