Cover image for Sorrow's kitchen : the life and folklore of Zora Neale Hurston
Sorrow's kitchen : the life and folklore of Zora Neale Hurston
Lyons, Mary E.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Scribner's ; Toronto : Collier Macmillan Canada ; New York : Maxwell Macmillan International Pub. Group, [1990]

Physical Description:
xiii, 144 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Describes the life and work of the prolific black author who wrote stories, plays, essays, and articles, recorded black folklore, and was involved in the Harlem Renaissance.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 6.9 4.0 6043.
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3515.U789 Z78 1990 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
PS3515.U789 Z78 1990 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
PS3515.U789 Z78 1990 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
PS3515.U789 Z78 1990 Adult Non-Fiction Black History Non-Circ

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Describes the life and work of the prolific black author who wrote stories, plays, essays, and articles, recorded black folklore, and was involved in the Harlem Renaissance.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Gr. 9-12. As folklorist, writer, and anthropologist, Hurston celebrated black pride, attacking what she called "the sobbing school of Negrohood." Other black intellectuals of the Harlem Renaissance accused her of ignoring black suffering and of playing up the "minstrel image" to please whites. Out of step with the art and politics of her time, she died poor and alone in 1960. Yet today her books are enjoying an enthusiastic revival, and two YA biographies explore her life and work. Both Lyons and Witcover show that Hurston's interest in folklore was scholarly (inspired by her Columbia University professor Franz Boas) and deeply personal (rooted in the stories she heard as a child in her all-black Florida hometown). Both biographies are also candid about her weaknesses--she did try to please whites, she did lie and plagiarize--even while they reveal her astonishing intellect and drive. Drawing as they do on similar sources and including many of the same stirring quotes and photos, the two books overlap quite a bit. Witcover's is the deeper study; in fact, his book would also be fine for adult shelves. He's especially good on the black identity debate, and he finds in Hurston's books the rich ambiguity that her contemporaries missed--her awareness of the individual struggle within the folk community, which both suffocates and empowers its members. Unfortunately, like the others in the Black Americans of Achievement series, the documentation is thin, though the sources for Hurston's quotes are usually given. The strength of Lyons' book is that she includes long excerpts from Hurston's works, set off within each chapter by a handsome border design. The documentation is detailed and unobtrusive, with notes and a long bibliography. Lyons discusses Hurston's interest in voodoo (as an anthropologist she saw it as a faith no stranger than any other religion) and includes a graphic excerpt from Hurston on animal sacrifice and zombies. Lyons quotes from Hurston's lyrical piece on folk hero John the Conquer, and we can see the living tradition carried on by great contemporary writers like Virginia Hamilton: "The sign of this man was a laugh, and his singing-symbol was a drumbeat . . . It was an inside thing to live by. It was sure to be heard when and where the work was the hardest, and the lot most cruel. It helped the slaves endure." ~--Hazel Rochman

School Library Journal Review

Gr 7 Up-- A succinct biography of the black novelist whose spirited use of dialect occasioned criticism from other prominent black writers, and who until recently was largely forgotten. Raised in Florida at the turn of the century , Hurston was indefatigable in her pursuit of self-improvement and an outlet for her acknowledged storytelling gift. Although it took many years, she put herself through Howard University, and then went on to Barnard for an advanced degree in anthropology. During these same years, her short stories made her an award-winning contributor to the literature of the Harlem Renaissance, from which she went on to write novels and compile collections of black folklore. Lyons is fond of her subject, and attempts to gild the lily--but Hurston, prickly as a cactus, refuses to gild. Her self-promotion, flamboyance, and inability to maintain stable relationships come through clearly. But so, thanks to the inclusion of generous passages from her various books, does her shining literary gift. While the cover does not grab, a 30-second booktalk using Hurston's traumatic family life or her experience with zombies in Haiti, a telling of one of her folktales, or a quick look at any of the excellent black-and-white photographs that grace the book will catch readers. Even on paper, whether it is in her words or her image, Hurston is a vibrant presence. Young adults who encounter her will come away enriched. A necessary enhancement for any collection that wants to present the depth and diversity of black history. --Ann Welton, University Child Development School, Seattle (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.