Book Review: Zora: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston

fradinZora: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston

Written by Dennis Brindell Fradin and Judith Bloom Fradin

192 pages

Published in 2012 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Source: Public Library

Zora: The Life of Zora Neale Hurtson follows the critically-acclaimed author and anthropologist from her birth in Notasulga, Alabama to her death in her sixties, penniless and almost forgotten. In between these years, the authors show readers what made Zora Neale Hurston special and just how much life she packed in her years.

I really enjoy reading memoirs and biographies about people who spent their lives doing what they loved. From the journals of Frida Kahlo to memoirs about Georgia O’Keefe, if a person followed their passion, I want to read a book about it. So reading a book about Zora Neale Hurston, the writer of the classic Their Eyes Were Watching God, was a no-brainer.

It’s said that Zora Neale Hurston packed more lives in her sixty-nine years of life than most people ever do. From her troubled childhood after the death of her mother to having to drop out of school many times to work, Zora rushed head-on. The authors pack so many details in the book to illustrate how rich Hurston’s life was. She lied about her age so many times for different reasons like getting a job to going to school for free. Being young, black, and smart, Zora ran into problem after problem but figured out ways around or through them. This book was written for middle-grade students and up, but I think anyone who reads this will find inspiration from Hurston’s life.

I loved learning about Hurston’s friendship with Langston Hughes, her inspiration for Their Eyes Were Watching God, and her life as an anthropologist traveling throughout the south for black folklore.  Even I could picture her standing on a sidewalk in Harlem, measuring strangers’ heads to prove racists wrong about the link between intelligence and the head size.

There are so many interesting tidbits to learn about Hurston but the problem is this book is so dry. The book is less than 200 pages but it took me over a week to read. Hurston’s life isn’t the problem but the author’s writing style. It became a chore to read this. If I, a reader who was already interested in the subject, had a hard time getting through this book, I can just imagine the experience a young reader going through this book will have. I don’t think they would finish it.

Hurston’s life was rich with adventures and this book proves that, but I’m reluctant to recommend it. If you’re already interested in Hurston’s life, I think you should give this book a try. For readers who don’t know much about the author, I suggest picking up something else about Hurston. My rating: 3 out of 5 stars.


About Vasilly

Mother, daughter, sister, college student, bookworm, lover of chocolate and coffee.
This entry was posted in Middle Grade, nonfiction, reviews, Young Adult and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Book Review: Zora: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston

  1. Andi Miller says:

    I LOVE Hurston! I would love reading a biography about her, but not a dry one. I’m sorry this one wasn’t more intriguing on the writing front!

  2. What a great cover!! To bad the inside was not as great.

  3. zibilee says:

    I hate it when an otherwise intriguing book is written so dryly, and can imagine that this one is definitely not the one for me. I know so little about Hurston’s life, and have never read any of her books, but the points you make here about how uninteresting the writing was is going to keep me away from this one. Very nice review. You stated your problems with the book very respectfully.

  4. Aw, it’s too bad it’s dry. I do love the cover like Alysia though.

  5. bookworm says:

    That’s too bad this became a chore to read, especially since the author led such an interesting life. I actually have Their Eyes Were Watching God on my Nook. I watched the film version years ago. Great, honest review.

  6. heidenkind says:

    I don’t know anything about her beyond reading Their Eyes Were Watching God, so I’ll skip this one I guess. But I do love that cover! Do you know who painted it?

  7. Heather says:

    I definitely need to read this.

  8. Jenny says:

    I’m shocked this wasn’t more entertaining! Zora Neale Hurston was, as you say, a really interesting woman. I have a girl-crush on her. I always feel indignant when I think about her dying in poverty. Come on, literary America!

  9. I didn’t know any of that about her! Too bad the writing style wasn’t better.

  10. samantha1020 says:

    I’ve always wanted to learn more about her! You’ll have to let us all know if you find a book about her that works better for you 🙂

  11. readerbuzz says:

    Isn’t it odd when you read a boring book about an exciting person? How does that happen?!

  12. I applaud your spending your school break reading books~ They look wonderful, and I have promised myself to look at the graphic books more closely. Happy reading.

  13. I am really interested in learning more about her friendship with Hughes. Last year I read “Letters from Black America” which had letters between the two of them, and letters where Hughes talks about her to other people. Their friendship just seemed so powerful.

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