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First published in 1942 at the crest of her popularity as a writer, this is Hurston's imaginative and exuberant account of her rise from childhood poverty in the rural South to a prominent place among the leading artists and intellectuals of the Harlem Renaissance.

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Mar 26, 2007

African-American Folklore At Its Best!

Dust Tracks On A Road is truly a great autobiography by one of America's best African-American Authors and women! Zora Neale Hurtson is definitely among the ranks of those acclaimed writers of the Harlem Renaissance. She is also a legend that thrives even today.
A genius in her own right, Zora uses vernacular in such a way as to create her own story bringing in readers to Eatonville, Florida with warmth, humor, and love. The reader meets her huger-than-life father and her huger-than-her-father mother up close and personal. On one hand, she has the reader caught up in the romanticism of two people who fall in love from opposite sides of the tracks making you choose sides against her grandmother. On the other hand, she recounts her own imaginative stories in the funniest way that you wonder if her grandmother wasn't on to something after all.
Readers will find time to laugh at Zora's silly childish fantasies with tears. You'll have to share those stories with every girlfriend you have. For instance, how many times have we as children believed the moon followed us everywhere we moved? How many times have we looked out over the horizon and believed we actually could reach the end of the earth? Zora takes us back to our childhood in a unique way that will make you reach for your walking shoes before you snap back into reality. Imagine a small town in the deep southern Florida sun where a poor girl scientifically returns an egg inside a hen and reads sharp as lightening about the Gods of Thunder and Lightening.
In a very skillful and talented way, Zora invites readers into her hometown of Eatonville, Florida to re-live her life with marvelous candor. Her fluent style of repeating folklore is with purpose and is meaningful in understanding why her Godmother, Mrs. R. Osgood Mason, kept Zora on her toes to leave a prized piece of her life for the future little African-American girls growing up in Eatonville, Florida, let alone America.
Not only does Zora possess a poignant memory as she tells her story, she has the gift of detracting readers from becoming too persuaded by her poverty and poor conditions to focusing instead on her humor and intelligence. For example, struggling with finances and her pain in the aftermath of her mother's death and her father's remarriage is described humorously in her two-year's worth of beating up on her stepmother so badly that her stepmother fled town. Zora allows the reader to witness how huge and powerful her father is in rearing his children and being respected by the townspeople until Zora decides she wants a horse for Christmas and then he is just daddy and Zora takes him on as if he is the hen. Of course, Zora would never put her mother to that same test and that fact is clearly arranged in the telling of her story.
Dust On The Tracks is a book that I always wanted to get around to reading and it is the first book that truly allowed me to get inside the head of this magnificent woman and appreciate why she was worth her Godmother's, the distinguished society white scholar's, personal financial investment to have the African-American woman tell about African-American folklore to produce African-American literature. Zora made the town of Eatonville and their folksy ways most interesting. Readers of all races and ethnicities can appreciate and respect the art of people in their everyday lives such as the African-American men on the chain gang and their meaningful songs. Songs that told of their encounters with racism in a poetically, talented way so that readers travel beyond the harshness of the cultural situation, and discover people were the same in all colors. Same values, wants, and desires. Zora captured that rich history and articulated it effortlessly.
There is a lot of wisdom and laughs and tears and joys and self-determination and nothing even near disappointment in this story. It is a must read for observing another angle of African-American people during a very defining era.

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