Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick: Stories from the Harlem Renaissance

Zora Neale Hurston, edited by Genevieve West. Amistad, $25.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-06-291579-5
This arresting collection from Hurston (Barracoon) includes eight previously unpublished works, mostly set in or featuring characters from her hometown of Eatonville, Fla. Many of the stories draw on folklore and mythology to dramatize conflicts around gender, class, and migration. In “John Redding Goes to Sea,” a young boy named John dreams of leaving his small Florida town and continues to dream of leaving after he’s grown up. Delayed at first by his mother, who neither understands nor approves of her son’s wanderlust, and then his wife, John finally gets an opportunity, undaunted by a portentous, impending storm. In “Magnolia Flower,” a young couple’s stealing of time together away from the woman’s overbearing, abusive father is framed as a bedtime story shared by an anthropomorphic river to a splashing brook after it disrupts the river’s slumber (“ ‘Oh, well,’ the river muttered, ‘I am wide awake now, and I suppose brooks must be humored’”). Hurston ingeniously uses the cadence of her characters’ speech to denote regionalism and class—there’s a marked difference between how her Eatonville characters speak and how her Harlem characters speak. Arranged chronologically, the collection offers an illuminating and delightful study of a canonical writer finding her rhythm. (Jan.)
Reviewed on : 12/20/2019
Release date: 01/01/2020
Genre: Fiction
Ebook - 192 pages - 978-0-06-291581-8
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