Book Reviews

Dust Tracks on a Road by Zora Neale Hurston (1942)

Dust Tracks on a Road, Zora Neale Hurston’s 1942 autobiography, has confounded critics and scholars from the time of its publication, even as it has enthralled and entertained readers.

It was the most commercially successful book she published during her lifetime, though it has since been eclipsed by her 1937 novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God.

Zora (1891 – 1960) studied anthropology at Barnard College in the 1920s, becoming the first African-American student at the prestigious college. With her larger-than-life personality, she quickly became a big name in the Harlem Renaissance movement of the 1920s. Read More→

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The Message of the City: Dawn Powell’s New York Novels 1925 – 1962

Dawn Powell (1896 – 1965) is considered a “writer’s writer,” though nearly all of her work was out of print by the time she died. Overcoming a hard-knock early life in the American midwest, she moved to New York City in 1918 and fell in love with it. Dawn Powell’s New York novels and stories are among the most enduring of her works.

Though she wrote prolifically throughout her life, producing novels, short stories, poetry, and plays, she didn’t gain much notoriety — for better or worse — during her lifetime. To the joy of devoted fans and new readers alike, many of her works have been rediscovered and rereleased. Read More→

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There is Confusion by Jessie Redmon Fauset (1924)

There is Confusion by Jessie Redmon Fauset (1882 – 1961) was the first novel by this American editor, poet, essayist, educator, and author associated closely with the Harlem Renaissance movement.

In addition to her own pursuits, Cornell-educated Fauset was known as one of the “literary midwives” of the movement, as someone who encouraged and supported other talents. 

Fauset’s poetic bent is reflected in the novel’s title, which comes from lines in “The Lotos-Eaters” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson: Read More→

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Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter: Revisiting the Eternal Optimist

The 1913 novel Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter (1868 – 1920)  is perhaps less familiar now than the lasting expression that grew from its sentimental story.

Most everyone knows what defines  a “Pollyanna” — someone who looks at the bright side of things no matter how dire, or who paints an overly optimistic picture of any situation. 

Pollyanna, subtitled “The Glad Book,” was incredibly successful from the start, and inspired many adaptations in other media. Though intended as a children’s novel, it appealed to all ages. Read More→

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The Years by Virginia Woolf (1937) — views from the past and present

The Years by Virginia Woolf (1937) was the last novel she had published in her lifetime. Spanning some fifty years, it covers the trajectory of the respectable Pargiter family from the 1880s to the 1930s.

One of its overarching themes is the passage of time, and it does so by detailing small, mostly private moments of the characters lives. Still, it moves away from the stream of consciousness style that she’s best known for, and into a more traditional narrative.

The novel is less internal than most of Virginia Woolf’s books, and traces the lives of the Pargiter family and the dailyness of their existence. From the Penguin Modern Classics edition: Read More→

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