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YA-This fascinating, previously unpublished series of writings from the 1930s will serve well as an independent reading experience or as a precursor to Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God. Rich references to folklore and music will be appreciated by students of English, music, or cultural anthropology, and such essays as "The Sanctified Church," with its hypnotic call-and-response patterns and references to free-form dancing, will enlighten readers, deepening their awareness of the original art forms expressed. The author's observations in "Other Negro Folklore Influences" and "Art and Such" are also valuable. Students familiar with the harsh criticisms of such eminent African-American artists of the time as Richard Wright and Sterling Brown may find much to reflect on in Hurston's lack of racial bitterness-a character trait that her contemporaries used against her. The excellent biographical essay by Pamela Bordelon refers to the "lively stories which compare images of heaven, hell, magical food and singing streets" that lace Hurston's writings. A logical organization guarantees accessibility, inviting readers to pursue particular topics or read the whole book.-Margaret Nolan, W. T. Woodson High School, Fairfax, VA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
In 1938, Hurston had to turn to the Florida branch of the Federal Writers Project (FWP), a New Deal relief program, to save herself from starvation. As its informal "Negro Editor" (supervisors refused to make her a real editor because she was black), she recorded Florida folklore‘her soul food‘from "jook joint" women to sanctified churchgoers for a state guidebook and The Florida Negro. This title marks the first-time publication of Hurston's complete FWP writings. Three essays that were cut from The Florida Negro for championing art over racial politics make up the meat of this collection; the remaining folktales, folk songs, interviews, and outlines are unsatisfying fodder that are only of interest because Hurston used them in some of her novels. Bordelon, an independent scholar, introduces this work with an intense biographical essay that covers Hurston's self-made mysteries, insatiable work ethic, and manipulations of Jim Crow laws. Highly recommended on the strength of "Go Gator and Muddy the Water" and "Art and Such," essays in which Hurston defines and defends folklore with her sinewy voice.‘Heather McCormack, "Library Journal"
The writings of distinguished African-American Harlem Renaissance author, folklorist, playwright and anthropologist Hurston during her tenure (1938-39) in the Florida division of the Federal Writers Project, many of them previously unpublished, are collected here. They are augmented by Bordelon's biographical essay about Hurston's life during the year she participated in the project, and by her analysis and commentary. The FWP, a federally funded relief program that provided impoverished writers with employment, offered Hurston the lowliest position of "relief reporter," a title for which she was clearly overqualified. But Hurston, just three generations away from slavery, was accustomed to discrimination in a South where Jim Crow laws were still staunchly upheld. As a reporter for the FWP she was assigned to write 1500 words per week describing the lore of African-American Floridians, as part of a larger project, which was never realized and which, moreover, deleted most of Hurston's contributions from the manuscript-in-progress. Other work she submitted for the FWP was often ignored or heavily edited; a few pieces were included in an automotive guidebook, Florida. Included here are Hurston's transcriptions of African-American oral history: traditions, habits, folklore, lyrics and dances; as well as photographs of Hurston and associates, and her performance pieces and essays. Her notable observations on race, writing, her hometown and the upward mobility of blacks in her time are now invaluable historical resources. For Hurston fans, especially scholars, this book will offer a fuller picture of the writer's lesser-known literary endeavors. (Feb.)