Saturday, December 21, 2019

Zora Neale Hurston’s Individualism

From The National Review:
Zora Neale Hurston didn’t want to be a black writer, at least not in the way that others insisted on it: “From what I had read and heard, Negroes were supposed to write about the Race Problem. I was and am thoroughly sick of the subject,” she wrote in her 1942 memoir, Dust Tracks on a Road. “My interest lies in what makes a man or a woman do such-and-such regardless of his color.”
If she sounds sort of like a conservative, that’s because she was one. The author of what is arguably the most celebrated novel by an African-American woman — Their Eyes Were Watching God, published in 1937 — was a Republican who despised identity politics. “I am not tragically colored,” she wrote in 1928. “I do not belong to the sobbing school of Negrohood who hold that nature somehow has given them a low-down dirty deal and whose feelings are all hurt about it.”

We’re still enjoying her company today. Although Hurston died in 1960, she hit No. 2 on the New York Times best-seller list last year with Barracoon, based on her interviews in 1927 with an 86-year-old man who was the last living person to have been transported in slavery from Africa to the United States. And on January 14 HarperCollins will release Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick, a new collection of Hurston’s short stories, including eight “lost” tales that haven’t appeared in print since their original publication. 

Despite this, her academic champions are doing their best to ensure the new collection doesn’t get picked up by the Conservative Book Club. The introduction by editor Genevieve West deploys the Left’s favorite buzzwords, citing Hurston’s “intersectionality” and praising her for “interrogating the politics of gender and class.” Separately, Hurston biographer Valerie Boyd has maintained that “we don’t know how she would have responded” to modern political figures and their beliefs. (Read more.)

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