Hitting a straight lick with a crooked stick Stories from the Harlem Renaissance

Zora Neale Hurston

Book - 2020

In 1925, Zora Neale Hurston was living in New York as a fledgling writer. This collection of stories, found in archives after her death, reveal African American folk culture in Harlem in the 1920s. This book includes eight of Hurston's "lost" Harlem gems.

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FICTION/Hurston Zora
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1st Floor FICTION/Hurston Zora Due Mar 6, 2024
Short stories
Domestic fiction
New York, NY : Amistad, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers [2020]
Main Author
Zora Neale Hurston (author, -)
Other Authors
Margaret Genevieve West (editor), Tayari Jones (writer of foreword)
First edition
Physical Description
xliii, 252 pages ; 22 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages 245-250).
  • John Redding goes to sea
  • The conversion of Sam
  • A bit of our Harlem
  • Drenched in light
  • Spunk
  • Magnolia flower
  • Black death
  • The bone of contention
  • Muttsy
  • Sweat
  • Under the bridge
  • 'Possum or pig?
  • The Eatonville anthology
  • Book of Harlem
  • The book of Harlem
  • The back room
  • Monkey junk
  • The country in the woman
  • The gilded six-bits
  • She rock
  • The fire and the cloud.
Review by Booklist Review

Best known for Their Eyes Were Watching God and her exuberant appreciation of African American culture in the rural south, Hurston also penned keen observations about Harlemites, many of them transplanted southerners. In another reclaimed volume, following Barracoon (2018), 21 of Hurston's short stories are gathered together for the first time, including nine recovered works, most focused on life in Harlem during its renaissance period, beginning in 1921 when Hurston struggled to launch herself as a writer. Presented in the order in which Hurston wrote them, the stories trace her literary development and the adjustments she shared with others of the Great Migration. The collection includes tales of a young man who longs to live life beyond his small Florida town, a faithful wife tempted by her husband's admiration for a gold-leafed city slicker, and a man who rejects the notion of marrying a biscuit cooker in favor of the prospect of Shebas of high voltage. Throughout, Hurston draws insightful and humorous contrasts between southern and northern cultures, small-town and big-city life, and the ties and disconnects between country and urban folk. With biting wit, Hurston gets to the heart of the human condition, including racism, sexism, and classism, through the circuitous path of her characters, that is, the straight lick with a crooked stick.HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Kicked off with a foreword by Tayari Jones, Hurston's rediscovered stories will electrify book media and draw in readers.--Vanessa Bush Copyright 2019 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

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.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

Not only does this collection include some of the greatest stories from the great Hurston, examining race, class, sex, and love within the context of African American culture, but it includes eight "lost" Harlem Renaissance tales unearthed from obscure periodicals and archives. The result is a refreshed view of Hurston as an American classic. With a 100,000-copy first printing.

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