Fire!! The Zora Neale Hurston story

Peter Bagge

Book - 2017

"Peter Bagge has defied the expectations of the comics industry by changing gears from his famous slacker hero Buddy Bradley to documenting the life and times of historical 20th century trailblazers. If Bagge had not already had a New York Times bestseller with his biography of Margaret Sanger, his newest biography, Fire!!: The Zora Neale Hurston Story, would seem to be an unfathomable pairing of author and subject. Yet through Bagge's skilled cartooning, he turns what could be a rote ...biography into a bold and dazzling graphic novel, creating a story as brilliant as the life itself. Hurston challenged the norms of what was expected of an African American woman in early 20th century society. The fifth of eight kids from a Baptist family in Alabama, Hurston's writing prowess blossomed at Howard University, and then Barnard College, where she was the sole black student. She arrived in NYC at the height of the Harlem Renaissance and quickly found herself surrounded by peers such as Langston Hughes and Wallace Thurman. Hurston went on to become a noted folklorist and critically acclaimed novelist, including her most provocative work Their Eyes Were Watching God. Despite these landmark achievements, personal tragedies and shifting political winds in the midcentury rendered her almost forgotten by the end of her life. With admiration and respect, Bagge reconstructs her vivid life in resounding full-color."--

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BIOGRAPHY/Hurston, Zora Neale
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Subjects
Genres
Biographical comics
Graphic novels
Biographies
Published
[Montreal, Québec] : Drawn + Quarterly 2017.
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Physical Description
71 pages, 31 unnumbered pages : chiefly color illustrations ; 23 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references.
ISBN
9781770462694
1770462694
Main Author
Peter Bagge (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* Novelist and folklorist Hurston was prone to towering rage, especially in her youth, when, for instance, she whaled the tar out of her father's presumptuous young second wife. That alone makes her a fitting subject for the talents of the man who created volatile Buddy Bradley, hero of Hate comics. Like Buddy, Hurston was too impulsive to restrain herself and too smart not to feel sorry. Fiercely intelligent and self-motivating, quite fearless but not foolhardy, she managed to make herself college-educated, a successful field anthropologist in Haiti and Jamaica as well as her native Florida, and, as the author of some of the highest esteemed fiction to come out of it, a star of the Harlem Renaissance. Although very close to Langston Hughes, she eventually fell out with him over his Communist-influenced radicalism; indeed, her individualism and roots-community orientation led her to scorn, controversially, government-directed racial integration. She retained a fatal-to-her-pocketbook love of the theater (another bosom friend was Ethel Waters), and she loved to party. What Bagge can't show of Hurston's life, he writes up in a photo-illustrated biographical essay keyed by page numbers to the comic's main text. His bright, cyclonic art, equally colorful dialogue (a pale reduction of Hurston's style, he thinks), and thoughtful, personally invested commentary constitute a moving, funny, and serious introduction to a larger-than-life literary figure. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Meet Zora Neale Hurston (1891–1960): anthropologist who worked with Franz Boas, folklore collector with Alan Lomax, novelist (Their Eyes Were Watching God), essayist, playwright, eccentric intellectual, life of the party, and adventurous fashionista. With friends and enemies black and white, Hurston faced criminal charges, poverty, ill health, and fickle associates (e.g., poet Langston Hughes) who didn't always stand up for her. Bagge (Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story) bends his manic, rubbery characters around Hurston's chutzpah for a warts-and-roses portrait of this woman who stirred up controversy both within and outside of the Harlem Renaissance. Hurston insisted on reproducing black speech idiomatically as she heard it, and Bagge follows her lead. (FIRE!! was a 1926 magazine "devoted to younger Negro artists," including Hurston.) Hurston shouldered her way up through multiple glass ceilings, and here Bagge captures her zest, humor, frustration, brain power, and accomplishments. VERDICT Current and future fans of Hurston plus anyone interested in American literary history will be entertained as well as enlightened. (See interview with Bagge on p. 69.)—MC Copyright 2017 Library Journal.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Meet Zora Neale Hurston: anthropologist who worked with Franz Boas, folklorist and collector of down-home speech and stories with Alan Lomax, novelist (Their Eyes Were Watching God), essayist and playwright, eccentric intellectual, life of the party, and exotic fashionista. Bagge bends manic, rubbery characters around Hurston's chutzpah for a warts-and-roses portrait of this fascinating woman who stirred up controversy in the Harlem Renaissance and beyond. (LJ 4/1/17) Copyright 2017 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Bagge follows his previous graphic novel, Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story, with another portrait of an iconoclastic American woman. Raised in an all-black farming town before attending Howard University, Hurston became a celebrated writer and anthropologist but clashed politically with much of the black intellectual community up north. Bagge depicts her life in his iconic spaghetti-limbed, cheery-colored cartoon style. He has a frustrating tendency to hurry through the material, though: Hurston decides to launch the literary magazine Fire!! with her friends, only to be shown closing up shop on the next page, and goes from considering a marriage proposal to the thick of her first marriage in two panels. It's easy to see what attracted Bagge to the material: brilliant, outrageous, prone to visions and mysticism yet fiercely pragmatic, Hurston is an irresistible character, and Bagge's extensive, opinionated endnotes attest to his fascination. But better focus and pacing would give needed structure to Hurston's freewheeling life. (Mar.) Copyright 2017 Publisher Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

"It's irresistible to try and imagine what Hurston would make of this book, and inevitable to conclude that she'd approve."—NPR Best Books of 2017A bold retelling of the life of the Their Eyes Were Watching God authorPeter Bagge has defied the expectations of the comics industry by changing gears from his famous slacker hero Buddy Bradley to documenting the life and times of historical 20th century trailblazers. If Bagge had not already had a New York Times bestseller with his biography of Margaret Sanger, his newest biography, Fire!!: The Zora Neale Hurston Story, would seem to be an unfathomable pairing of author and subject. Yet through Bagge’s skilled cartooning, he turns what could be a rote biography into a bold and dazzling graphic novel, creating a story as brilliant as the life itself.Hurston challenged the norms of what was expected of an African American woman in early 20th century society. The fifth of eight kids from a Baptist family in Alabama, Hurston’s writing prowess blossomed at Howard University, and then Barnard College, where she was the sole black student. She arrived in NYC at the height of the Harlem Renaissance and quickly found herself surrounded by peers such as Langston Hughes and Wallace Thurman. Hurston went on to become a noted folklorist and critically acclaimed novelist, including her most provocative work Their Eyes Were Watching God. Despite these landmark achievements, personal tragedies and shifting political winds in the midcentury rendered her almost forgotten by the end of her life. With admiration and respect, Bagge reconstructs her vivid life in resounding full-color.