Zora Neale Hurston: Quotes and Life Lessons

Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston (1891 – 1960), the American novelist, essayist, anthropologist, and folklorist, was well known during the Harlem Renaissance. With much to say about life, love, and writing, we’ll explore some typically exuberant and wise Zora Neale Hurston quotes and life lessons.

In her fiction and nonfiction she spun out a plethora of inspiring, quotable text that belied the hardships she endured throughout the course of her career. Her most influential work is Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937), though most all of her other works have been revived after having been virtually forgotten.

An outspoken, outstanding figure in the Harlem Renaissance movement, Zora displayed great style, loved to laugh, and had great pride in the Black race. Her work reflected her values, though beneath her joyous exterior, there was constant struggle, including three failed marriages and never enough money.

In the course of her lifetime, Zora’s reputation began to decline. Though her books sold fairly well, and had many admirers, they had their equal share of detractors. Some Black writers objected to her use of dialect. Other contemporaries were troubled by her political conservatism.

By the time she died in obscurity in 1960, she had been virtually forgotten. Fortunately, author Alice Walker played an instrumental role in reviving Hurston’s reputation. In 1973, she placed a marker at the spot where Zora was believed to be buried in an unmarked grave. The stone reads, “Zora Neale Hurston, A Genius of the South.”

Zora’s books are now read and studied far more even than they were during her lifetime, and have become staples of American literature and women’s studies courses. 

. . . . . . . . . . 

“I have the nerve to walk my own way, however hard, in my search for reality, rather than climb upon the rattling wagon of wishful illusions.”

. . . . . . . . . . 

“Learning without wisdom is a load of books on a donkey’s back.”

. . . . . . . . . . 

“Life is the flower for which love is the honey.”

. . . . . . . . . . 

Zora Neale Hurston Sorrow's Kitchen quote

. . . . . . . . . . 

“I have been in Sorrow’s kitchen and licked out all the pots. Then I have stood on the peaky mountain wrapped in rainbows, with a harp and a sword in my hands.” (Jonah’s Gourd Vine, 1934)

. . . . . . . . . . 

“Mama exhorted her children at every opportunity to ‘Jump at de sun.’ We might not land on the sun, but at least we would get off the ground.” (Dust Tracks on a Road, 1942)

. . . . . . . . . . 

“They seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were watching God.” (Their Eyes Were Watching God, 1937)

. . . . . . . . . . 

“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” (Their Eyes Were Watching God, 1937)

. . . . . . . . . . 

zora neale hurston

5 Quotes from How it Feels to be Colored Me
. . . . . . . . . . 

“There is something about poverty that smells like death. Dead dreams dropping off the heart like leaves in a dry season rotting around the feet; impulses smothered too long in the fetid air of underground caves. The soul lives in a sickly air. People can be slave-ships in shoes.”

. . . . . . . . . . 

“An envious heart makes a treacherous ear.”

. . . . . . . . . . 

“One of the most serious objections to me was that having nothing, I still did not know how to be humble. A child in my place ought to realize I was lucky to have a roof over my head and anything to eat at all.”

 

“A thing is mighty big when time and distance cannot shrink it.” (Tell My Horse1938)

. . . . . . . . . . 

“Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose. It is a seeking that he who wishes may know the cosmic secrets of the world and they that dwell therein.” (Dust Tracks on a Road, 1942)

. . . . . . . . . . 

I belong to no race nor time. I am the eternal feminine with its string of beads.”

. . . . . . . . . . 

“Once you wake up thought in a man, you can never put it to sleep again.”

. . . . . . . . . . 

“Gods always behave like the people who make them.” (Tell My Horse, 1938)

. . . . . . . . . . 

“I want a busy life, a just mind, and a timely death.”

. . . . . . . . . . 

“Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place.”

 

“Some people could look at a mud puddle and see an ocean with ships.” (Their Eyes Were Watching God, 1937)

. . . . . . . . . . 

“Love is like the sea. It’s a moving thing, but still and all, it takes its shape from the shore it meets, and it’s different with every shore.” (Their Eyes Were Watching God, 1937)

. . . . . . . . . . 

I wrote Their Eyes Were Watching God in Haiti. It was dammed up in me, I wrote it under internal pressure in seven weeks. I wish that I could write it again. In fact, I regret all of my books. It is one of the tragedies of life that one cannot have all the wisdom one is ever to possess in the beginning.

Perhaps, it is just as well to be rash and foolish for a while. If writers were too wise, perhaps no books would get written at all. It might be better to ask yourself “Why?” afterwards than before.

Anyway, the force from somewhere in Space which commands you to write in the first place, gives you no choice. You take up the pen when you are told, and write what is commanded. There is no agony like a bearing and untold story inside you.” (Dust Tracks on a Road, 1942)

. . . . . . . . . . 

Zora Neale Hurston quotes

Zora Neale Hurston: Books, Publishing, and Publishers

. . . . . . . . . . 

“Happiness is nothing but everyday living seen through a veil.”

. . . . . . . . . . 

“Those that don’t got it, can’t show it. Those that got it, can’t hide it.”

. . . . . . . . . . 

“Love, I find is like singing. Everybody can do enough to satisfy themselves, though it may not impress the neighbors as being very much.” (Dust Tracks on the Road, 1942)

. . . . . . . . . . 

“Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board.” (Their Eyes Were Watching God, 1937)

. . . . . . . . . . 

“Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It’s beyond me.”

. . . . . . . . . . 

Their Eyes Were Watching God 75th Anniversary Edition

Zora Neale Hurston page on Amazon*

. . . . . . . . . . 

“If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.”

. . . . . . . . . . 

“Bitterness is the coward’s revenge on the world for having been hurt.”

. . . . . . . . . . 

“I love myself when I am laughing. . . and then again when I am looking mean and impressive.”

. . . . . . . . . . 

“Grab the broom of anger and drive off the beast of fear.”

. . . . . . . . . . 

“If you haven’t got it, you can’t show it. If you have got it, you can’t hide it.”

. . . . . . . . . . 

“Such as I am, I am a precious gift.”

. . . . . . . . . . 

Zora Neale Hurston

RELATED POSTS
What White Publishers Won’t Print
I Love Myself When I Am Laughing
“Crazy for This Democracy”

. . . . . . . . . . 

“I made up my mind to keep my feelings to myself since they did not seem to matter to anyone but me.” (Dust Tracks on a Road, 1942)

. . . . . . . . . . 

“There is no single face in nature, because every eye that looks upon it, sees it from its own angle. So every man’s spice-box seasons his own food.”

. . . . . . . . . . 

“Nothing that God ever made is the same thing to more than one person.”

. . . . . . . . . . 

“Grown people know that they do not always know the way of things, and even if they think they know, they do not know where and how they got the proof.” (Dust Tracks on a Road, 1942)

. . . . . . . . . . 

“There is nothing to make you like other human beings so much as doing things for them.”

. . . . . . . . . . 

“It seems to me that trying to live without friends is like milking a bear to get cream for your morning coffee. It is a whole lot of trouble, and then not worth much after you get it.”

. . . . . . . . . . 

“My head was full of misty fumes of doubt.”

. . . . . . . . . . 

*This is an Amazon Affiliate link. If the product is purchased by linking through, Literary Ladies Guide receives a modest commission, which helps maintain our site and helps it to continue growing!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to The Literary Ladies Guide weekly newsletter

Celebrating women’s voices
with inspiration for readers and writers

  • Find your next great read
  • Get writing advice from authors you love
  • Enjoy fascinating facts and quotes
  • Discover women’s literary history

... and lots more (look for a bonus in your welcome letter!)
Email address
Secure and Spam free...