zora neale hurston -- 3/8/21

Today's selection -- from Zora and Langston by Yuval Taylor. Zora Neale Hurston: author, anthropologist, playwright, and filmmaker:

"Zora, with her energy and insouciance -- she loved nothing better than telling stories and putting on a show. Her accent was deeply Southern -- like many Georgians and northern Floridians, she never pronounced her r's or the final g of gerunds, and dead and can't often had two syllables -- and her voice was deep-toned, like a blueswoman's; when she sang she sounded like a contralto Bessie Smith. ...

"Zora's flamboyance would ... become legendary. ... She smokes Pall Malls in public, a rare sight for a woman; wore 'lots of bangles and beads,' according to a friend; and sang spirituals, played harmonica, and told racy stories of Southern life. Unlike most of the prominent artists of the Harlem renaissance, Zora not only hailed from the Deep South but had spent substantial time there; compared to the rest of the crowd, she embodied the 'folk.' 

Portrait of Zora Neale Hurston by Carl Van Vechten

"The black writer Arna Bontemps later recalled of Zora at that time, 'She was really not a showoff but she drew attention in that way. In appearance, Zora was pleasant, ordinary, brown-skinned young woman; not stunning, ... a little above average in appearance, but she had an ease and somehow projected herself very well orally, and almost before you knew it, she had gotten into a story. She had a wealth of them.' She possessed 'the gift,' or so Fannie Hurst said, 'of walking into hearts.' In short, she was not only the object of considerable attention, and the life of every party, but a woman who inspired great fondness -- especially among her white admirers.

"[Writer and photographer] Carl Van Vechten was one of them. He would later write, 'Zora is picturesque, witty, electric, indiscreet, and unreliable. The latter quality offers material for discussion; the former qualities induce her friends to forgive and love her.' He insisted that Zora regarded appointments as provisional at best. And Zora showcased her disregard for convention by coming to one of Van Vechten's parties in a Seminole Indian skirt made entirely of patches, and to another in a Norwegian skiing outfit."

 | www.delanceyplace.com


Yuval Taylor


Zora and Langston


W.W. Norton & Company


Copyright 2019 by Yuval Taylor


barns and noble booksellers
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

All delanceyplace profits are donated to charity and support children’s literacy projects.


Sign in or create an account to comment