The Sum of Life: Zora Neale Hurston

Some folks know Zora Neale Hurston was a giant of American literature, but many have never read her work ... or even heard her name. Michael Adno retraces the footsteps of Hurston and interviews those, like Alice Walker and Valerie Boyd, who followed her — to remind us all Zora was maybe the most important American writer to have ever lived.

By Michael Adno for The Bitter Southerner(Available online here)

“I know that the earth absorbs perfume and urine with the same indifference.”

— Zora Neale Hurston

Myths ferried Zora Neale Hurston through life. And long after her death in 1960, they coursed through her work like a stream. But at times, it seemed those very myths hung over her like a constellation made up of stars she’d arranged herself.

Time, a lifelong enemy of Hurston’s, reached her on January 28, 1960, when she died of a stroke in Fort Pierce, Florida — a tiny town bisected by the Indian River 120 miles north of Miami. On February 4, 1960, the Associated Press ran her obituary. It read, “Zora Neale Hurston, author, died in obscurity and poverty.” And with those words, syndicated in The New York Times and in papers from Jamaica to California, a new set of myths formed. Some listed her age at 57, others 58. After all, depending on what suited her, she told people she was born in 1901, 1902, or 1903 — in Eatonville, Florida.

But as it turned out, none of this was true.

Read the entire feature online here.