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Mules and Menby Zora Neale Hurston
Synopses & Reviews
"Simply the most exciting book on black folklore and culture I have ever read." --Roger D. Abrahams
Mules and Men is the first great collection of black America's folk world. In the 1930's, Zora Neale Hurston returned to her "native village" of Eatonville, Florida to record the oral histories, sermons and songs, dating back to the time of slavery, which she remembered hearing as a child. In her quest, she found herself and her history throughout these highly metaphorical folk-tales, "big old lies," and the lyrical language of song. With this collection, Zora Neale Hurston has come to reveal'and preserve'a beautiful and important part of American culture.
Zora Neale Hurston (1901-1960) was a novelist, folklorist, anthropologist and playwright whose fictional and factual accounts of black heritage are unparalleled. She is also the author of Tell My Horse, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Dust Tracks on a Road, and Mule Bone.
Ruby Dee, a member of the Theatre Hall of Fame, starred on Broadway in the original productions of A Raisin in the Sun and Purlie Victorious, and was featured in Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing. She is also an award-winning author and the producer of numerous television dramas.
Set intimately within the social context of black life, this is a collection of stories, "big old lies", songs, voodoo customs and superstitions passed down through oral tradition.
For the student of cultural history, Mules and Men is a treasury of black America's folklore as collected by a famous storyteller and anthropologist who grew up hearing the songs and sermons, sayings and tall tales that have formed an oral history of the South since the time of slavery. As Zora Neale Hurston writes about her trip to her hometown of Eatonville, Florida, where she went to gather material: "it was a hilarious night with a pinch of everything social mixed with the story telling . . . Some of the stories were the familiar drummer-type of tale about two Irishmen, Pat and Mike, or two Jews as the case might be. Some were the European folk-tales undiluted like Jack and the Beanstalk. Others had slight social variations, but Negro imagination is so facile that there was little need for outside help." Set intimately within the social context of black life, the stories, "big old lies," songs, voodoo customs, and superstitions recorded in these pages capture the imagination and bring back to life the humor and wisdom that is the unique heritage of American blacks.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 299-302).
About the Author
In her award-winning autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Road (1942), ZORA NEALE HURSTON claimed to have been born in Eatonville, Florida, in 1901. She was, in fact, born in Notasulga, Alabama, on January 7, 1891, the fifth child of John Hurston (farmer, carpenter, and Baptist preacher) and Lucy Ann Potts (school teacher). The author of numerous books, including Their Eyes Were Watching God, Jonah's Gourd Vine, Mules and Men, and Moses, Man of the Mountain, Hurston had achieved fame and sparked controversy as a novelist, anthropologist, outspoken essayist, lecturer, and theatrical producer during her sixty-nine years. Hurston's finest work of fiction appeared at a time when artistic and political statements — whether single sentences or book-length fictions — were peculiarly conflated. Many works of fiction were informed by purely political motives; political pronouncements frequently appeared in polished literary prose. And Hurston's own political statements, relating to racial issues or addressing national politics, did not ingratiate her with her black male contemporaries. The end result was that Their Eyes Were Watching God went out of print not long after its first appearance and remained out of print for nearly thirty years. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., has been one among many to ask: "How could the recipient of two Guggenheims and the author of four novels, a dozen short stories, two musicals, two books on black mythology, dozens of essays, and a prizewinning autobiography virtually 'disappear' from her readership for three full decades?"
That question remains unanswered. The fact remains that every one of Hurston's books went quickly out of print; and it was only through the determined efforts, in the 1970s, of Alice Walker, Robert Hemenway (Hurston's biographer), Toni Cade Bambara, and other writers and scholars that all of her books are now back in print and that she has taken her rightful place in the pantheon of American authors.
In 1973, Walker, distressed that Hurston's writings had been all but forgotten, found Hurston's grave in the Garden of Heavenly Rest and installed a gravemarker. "After loving and teaching her work for a number of years," Walker later reported, "I could not bear that she did not have a known grave." The gravemarker now bears the words that Walker had inscribed there:
ZORA NEALE HURSTON
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