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Dust Tracks on a Road: An Autobiography (1942)

by Zora Neale Hurston

Other authors: Maya Angelou (Introduction)

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1,054913,720 (4.1)109
An exuberant account of Zora Neale Hurston's rise from poverty in the rural south to a prominent place among the leading artists and intelectuals of the Harlem Renaissance.



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English (8)  German (1)  All languages (9)
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
Even without a tutored read, I can wholeheartedly recommend Dust Tracks on a Road. Hurston is a phenomenal writer. I love the way she uses local and contemporaneous dialect seamlessly in her higher brow and lower brow stories within the autobiography.

Having read the introduction, I did feel like I could spot a few places where she was keeping distance from the reader. I also wished to learn more about the Harlem Renaissance than she includes (which I may try to do later). But I liked this regardless. Of particular note, in my opinion, are the chapters where she talks about her writing process (fascinating) and the story of her mother's death (wrenching). ( )
  sparemethecensor | Jun 30, 2020 |
A fantastic book by a highly intelligent and gifted author, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this, and other of her books. It is tragic her life ended with her living in poverty. She is one of my favorite authors. ( )
  LeonardSmith1 | Nov 7, 2019 |
Entertaining autobiography of an American roots writer.
Review of the Audible Audio edition (2016) narrated by Bahni Turpin (was the Audible Daily Deal on February 19, 2019).

This was an entertaining overview of American roots writer Zora Neale Hurston's (1891-1960) life and career as written from her own point of view in 1942. It doesn't provide a complete biographical arc. Although the audiobook shares a cover image with 2010's Perennial Modern Classics Deluxe edition it does not include the Maya Angelou foreword, the Valerie Boyd biographical note, and the P.S. bonus materials sections. Some of that extra material would have been useful for context as the latter part of the autobiography becomes more of a series of essays on religion and slavery. This is followed up with the final 6th of the audiobook (about 2 hours of the total 11. 4 hours) being a series of appendices with further essay material (some of which repeats stories that already appear in the biography proper). So some confusion does result in understanding why the book is structured the way it is and how much it has now been rearranged by latter day editors.

Still, it is enormously entertaining for the most part and was enhanced by actress Bahni Turpin's vocal performance. Hurston interjects various digressions of anecdotes and folk tales into her through story which provides considerable opportunity for Turpin to perform everything from Boston Irish accents to Fire & Brimstone pulpit speeches. I have only otherwise read Hurston's classic "Their Eyes Were Watching God" and likely some of her other works are now hard to find, but I think they would make for similarly enjoyable Americana roots reading in the present day. I had not known previously that Hurston was a student of anthropologist Franz Boas for instance or about her gathering of information on Hoodoo rituals and practices in Louisiana and those of Voodoo in Haiti. ( )
  alanteder | Mar 11, 2019 |
Zora's autobiography was most enjoyable for its language full of inventive metaphor. Particularly towards the end she gets up on her soap box a bit too much for my taste. ( )
  snash | Aug 6, 2016 |
This was wonderful. ZNH tells her own story very engagingly, with plenty of reflections on race, self-determination, American culture, religion, friendship, publishing, the works. She's acerbic in her observations; I kept on writing them down. At the time she wrote the autobiography, she was at the height of her success; a few years later she was out of the public eye, and she ended her life in poverty and obscurity, which is a terrible shame. Well, no one should die alone and impoverished, though.

Here are her words on poverty:

There is something about poverty that smells like death. Dead dreams dropping off the heart like leaves in a dry season and 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.

and on justice:

I too yearn for universal justice, but how to bring it about is another thing. It is such a complicated thing, for justice, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. There is universal agreement of the principle, but the application brings on the fight.

But there were lighthearted moments, too, like this, from her childhood, which I shared on Livejournal:

I used to take a seat on top of the gate post and watch the world go by. One way to Orlando ran past my house, so the carriages and cars would pass before me. The movement made me glad to see it. Often the white travelers would hail me, but more often I hailed them, and asked, "Don't you want me to go a piece of the way with you?"

They always did. I know now that I must have caused a great deal of amusement among them, but my self-assurance must have carried the point, for I was always invited to come along. I'd ride up the road for perhaps a half mile, then walk back.

I recommend it, especially if you're interested in ZNH's writing. It's both entertaining and thought provoking.
( )
1 vote FrancescaForrest | May 12, 2014 |
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Zora Neale Hurstonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Angelou, MayaIntroductionsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Gleich scheinbar totem, kaltem Gestein trage ich in mir die Spuren der Materie, die einst daranging, mich zu machen.
Like the dead-seeming, cold rocks, I have memories within that came out of the materials that went to make me. Time and place have had their say.
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An exuberant account of Zora Neale Hurston's rise from poverty in the rural south to a prominent place among the leading artists and intelectuals of the Harlem Renaissance.

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