“Sweat” – a 1926 short story by Zora Neale Hurston (full text)

Originally published in 1926, Zora Neale Hurston’s short story, “Sweat,” is nuanced and eloquently compact. Hurston maximizes each word, object, character, and plot point to create an impassioned and enlightening narrative.

Within this small space, Hurston addresses a number of themes, such as the trials of femininity, which she explores with compelling and efficient symbolism.

In her introduction to the 1997 anthology entirely devoted to the story (“Sweat” by Zora Neale Hurston), editor Cheryl A. Wall wrote: Read More→

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John Redding Goes to Sea by Zora Neale Hurston (1921)

Presented here is the full text of “John Redding Goes to Sea,” the first story by Zora Neale Hurston to be published.

Launching what would become her typical style, with characters speaking in dialect, the story was first published in the May, 1921 issue of Stylus, Howard University’s literary magazine. A slightly edited version in the January, 1926, issue of Opportunity, a prominent literary journal associated with the Harlem Renaissance

More recently, the story is included in Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick (2020) a collection of Zora’s rediscovered short stories. Read More→

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Zora Neale Hurston’s Seraph on the Suwanee: Views from 1948 & Beyond

Seraph on the Suwanee, Zora Neale Hurston’s fourth and last published novel (1948), was an outlier  among her works, which included numerous short stories and ethnographic collections. The reason: it was her only book that was written about white people — specifically, Florida’s “white crackers.”

Exploring the cultural differences between the meek and colorless heroine, Arvay and her handsome, enterprising husband Jim, the novel received mixed-to-positive reviews by the white press.

Some reviewers bent over backwards to praise the fact that a Black writer produced a novel that wasn’t about race issues, bringing to light the lives and dialect of the turpentine people of Florida. Read More→

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The Literary Friendship of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings & Zora Neale Hurston

The following musing on the friendship of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and Zora Neale Hurston, two complex literary personalities, is excerpted and adapted from The Life She Wished to Live: A Biography of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Author of “The Yearling,” © 2021 by Ann McCutchan.

This biography revives interest in a mid-20th century writer whose work successfully bridged literary and commercial qualities.

A Pulitzer Prize winner and household name in her time, Rawlings deserves to be remembered and read. Further thoughts on The Life She Wished to Live will be found following this excerpt. Reprinted with permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved: Read More→

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How Alice Walker Rediscovered Zora Neale Hurston

By the time of Zora Neale Hurston’s death, most of her considerable body of work was out of print, rarely read or studied. Here we’ll explore how Alice Walker rediscovered Zora Neale Hurston and revived her literary legacy.

Zora Neale Hurston (1891 – 1960) had a dual career as an anthropologist and author, incorporating regional and cultural realism in her short stories, folklore collections, and novels.

Alice Walker (1944 – ) is an activist, novelist, short story writer, and poet best known for the 1982 novel The Color Purple. Some of her views  and alliances are controversial, yet if there is one good deed she has done, it has been to return Zora to her rightful place in the world of literature.

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