The Big Read Blog (Archive)

Art Works podcast: Valerie Boyd, biographer of Zora Neale Hurston

Washington, DC

Portrait of Zora Neale Hurston, 1938, by Carl van Vechten. From <a href="http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2004663047/" target="_self">Library of Congress collection</a>

Portrait of Zora Neale Hurston, 1938, by Carl van Vechten. From Library of Congress collection

Portrait of Zora Neale Hurston, 1938, by Carl van Vechten. From Library of Congress collection

This week?s Art Works podcast is a conversation with Valerie Boyd, author of Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston.

And what a life Hurston led! Brought up in the black township of Eatonville, Florida, Zora Neale Hurston was creative, free-spirited, and a natural born story teller. She casually lopped ten years off her age, so she could pass for 16 and get a free high school education, eventually moving on to study anthropology with Franz Boaz at Barnard College. She arrived in New York City when the Harlem Renaissance was in full-flower; yet, even in that exalted company, Zora Neale Hurston stood out. While other African-American writers of the period focused on black struggle in an oppressive society, Hurston?s work was a celebration of everyday black culture.

As an anthropologist, as a storyteller, and as a playwright, Zora Neale Hurston was passionate about Southern black folk culture and the poetry in its distinctive language. According to Hurston biographer Valerie Boyd, we can find the best expression of this passion in Hurston?s 1937 classic novel (and The Big Read selection) Their Eyes were Watching God. [clip 1:10]

[audio:http://www.arts.gov/artworks/wp-content/uploads/Boyd-blog.mp3]

[transcript]

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