"Told in gutsy language...her story is an encouraging and enjoyable one for any member of the human race." — N.Y. Review of Books.
First published in 1942 at the height of her popularity, Dust Tracks on a Road is Zora Neale Hurston's candid, funny, bold and poignant autobiography, an 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. As compelling as her acclaimed fiction, Hurston's very personal literary self-portrait offers a revealing, often audacious glimpse into the life–public and private–of an extraordinary artist, anthropologist, chronicler, and champion of the black experience in America. Full of the wit and wisdom of a proud, spirited woman who started off low and climbed hight, Dust Tracks on a Road is a rare treasure from one of literature's most cherished voices.
I remember the last time I set foot in a Barnes & Noble, many years ago, on my lunch hour perusing the aisles for something to sink my eyeballs into. Lo’ and behold I stumble across this black and white cover of a woman’s face with her eyes looking downward. The title of the novel stated Their Eyes Were Watching God. (Click the novel title to see my review on Goodreads). I looked at the author’s name Zora Neale Hurston. Hmm, I’ve heard of this author, but for some strange odd reason I had not read any of her work. I thought, what the hell, I’ll give it a go. The cover was sort of haunting and I liked the woman’s face on it. See, readers really do judge books by covers! (Ha, who knew?)
Well let me tell you something, liking the cover of the book was one thing, but reading the words this woman slaved over were downright intoxicating! I could not get enough of Zora’s story. OMG, that was one of the best stories I’ve ever read. Her writing style reminds me of Toni Morrison and Alice Walker. Hmmph, those authors are in great company. Man, oh man could Zora tell a story! I remember when the movie was coming out with the same title as the novel and Halle Berry was playing the lead character, I was too excited. I ended up purchasing the DVD to add to my collection. But, Nerds, as you always know, reading the book first is your best bet because Hollywood almost always gets it wrong, although I will admit, they didn’t do too bad of a job with the movie adaptation.
One of my many dilemmas is trying to find my next good book to read and I’m going through my extensive library and I realized I had Zora’s autobiography on my shelf for about six years now. Ok, so it’s Black History Month and I love celebrating this month by reading about African-Americans I have not read. So, I select Zora’s book Dust Tracks on a Road. Umm, when I tell you Zora kicked up a fire storm of dust with all her life had to tell. What an incredible woman and human being.
She was born on January 7, 1891, but through my Google search I note that there are some websites that state she was born in 1901. I did manage to find some articles stating the discrepancy, but Zora Neale Hurston was in fact born in 1891 in Notasulga, Alabama. Try saying that three times fast—good luck! She was the fifth child out of eight children total born to John Hurston and Lucy Potts Hurston. Her father was also a Baptist preacher and her mother a retired schoolteacher.
From an early age, Zora was different. Where other children were off playing and doing what children do, Zora was climbing trees and watching the horizon and dreaming and making up stories in her head. She made up every kind of story you could possibly think of and her grandmother was not too pleased with Miss Zora telling all these lies, as her grandma put it. Luckily, her mother took pleasure in hearing young Zora’s stories and encouraged her to keep on dreaming. It’s a good thing too because I would have never had the pleasure of reading Their Eyes Were Watching God. What I found so fascinating is that Zora had seven dreams that actually came true. She could recite each dream with great detail. Even though some of those dreams were downright terrifying, she went on with her life and checked them off as they happened to her. One being that her mother would die way too early. That left a hell of an impression on Zora and her mother’s passing set off the course that Zora’s life would go.
Readers, when I tell you this was an incredible story, it truly was. She has a language all of her own. In fact, it’s so funny reading her slang because the way people talk today is vastly different from the era that she was from. She didn’t have an easy life by any means, but God was truly watching her. He managed to always put her in the right place at the right time.
The novel had a beautiful foreword by Maya Angelou, which was very heartfelt. That had to be such an honor to be able to write your own piece from one author to another. Sadly, they are both deceased and have moved on to write in Heaven, as I would imagine. My only critique of the novel would be it was a bit boring. I found sections of the story to appear as ramblings more so than telling of her own story, but I suppose that was how she was feeling at the time. One will never know. But outside of that, I truly enjoyed the book.
The Sexy Nerd gives Dust Tracks on a Road four extra footprints. If you’ve never read any of Zora Neale Hurston’s novels, I encourage you to please do so. You’re in for such a treat. And I’d highly recommend my all-time favorite, Their Eyes Were Watching God. You will absolutely love it. Until next time, Nerds, you know what to do!