Friday, November 26, 2010

Zora and Me - Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon


I don't think anyone would argue that Zora Neale Hurston is one of the most influential writers of the Harlem Renaissance, and maybe even of literature in general. Her book Their Eyes Were Watching God was pure magic. She is an icon down here where I live, as she spent her childhood years in the first all-black town in the US called Eatonville, just on the north side of Orlando.

I find it natural and expected that writers and best friends Bond and Simon decided that they needed to craft a book about Zora as a child - she was such a compelling personality. Instead of writing another biography, though, they gathered as much factual data about her as possible, observed pictures of where she lived, learned about her friends and mentors, read her short stories to capture her spirit, and wrote a fictional middle grade novel. Thus came the highly anticipated debut novel "Zora and Me".

Synopsis: Narrated by Zora's best friend Carrie, the girls, along with the third musketeer Teddy, have adventures in Eatonville in the early 1900's. The presence of a mythical alligator named Ghost, and it's maiming and killing of one of Eatonville's residents, fuels the children's imagination. Zora, an inquisitive, precocious little firecracker, is the ringleader of the trio. She is convinced that Ghost is really half man, half beast, and the kids play detective to get to the bottom of the mystery.

Unfortunately, they stumble into something that is bigger than all of them. Instead of catching the evil man-gator, they receive a harsh education on the chasm between blacks and whites.

My thoughts: Bond and Simon have created a precious novel on several counts. They have obviously done their homework, and have resurrected Zora as she must have been as a youth - vibrant, curious, and a great storyteller. They have also stayed true to her environment and recreated Eatonville as it was: the boisterous, gossipy men on the front porch of Joe Clark's store, the closeness of the community, the transient workers passing through town, the trips into Maitland for shopping, the wise guidance of Zora's white godfather. (By the way, all of these elements have been included in "Their Eyes Were Watching God" as well.) It is a loving tribute to a very talented lady.

It is also a coming-of-age story. Carrie begins to have confusing and warm feelings towards Teddy. The children also lose a bit of their innocence as a result of the tough life lessons they learn about race and class. It is tender and bittersweet.

Whether you are a fan of Zora Neale Hurston, a fan of Southern fiction, or a 10 to 12 year old looking for something interesting to read, this book is a must.


I normally don't like to burden reviews with a video, but this one gives you an excellent feel for the passion behind Zora and Me. Take a look:










4 out of 5 stars
















17 comments:

bermudaonion said...

Excellent review of a great book! I loved the video. By the way, this is an Okra Pick.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I loved the video too! It definitely increased my interest in the book.

Beth F said...

I was planning on reading this for the Okra Pick challenge and now I'm really, really looking forward to it. The video was terrific.

Trisha said...

Great video! I love TEWWG, but I've never gone farther with Hurston. This sounds like a good way to learn more.

Darlene said...

I didn't know this was even out. I'll definitely want to read it.

ds said...

Great video, outstanding review. I loved Their Eyes Were Watching God. Must read this--and more Hurston, too. Thank you.

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving!!

irisonbooks said...

I still need to read Their Eyes Were watching God, and I admit I am even more eager to now! So I can read this book afterwards..

caite said...

ok, once again I will admit my ignorance and say that I have never heard of Ms.Hurston. But this sound like a grand way to learn a bit..

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Frances said...

Glad you decided to feature this one because I feel that it is a stand-out children's book this year. Spot-on perfect to me for many of the reasons you offer.

Susan said...

Oh, gosh! I wish I had had time to look on Friday...my mother-in-law would have loved watching this video. She's a huge ZNH fan.

Coffee and a Book Chick said...

Their Eyes Were Watching God was one of the first books as a kid that made me really, really start to think. About social issues, how a person can write and convey an image so beautifully. I think I have a copy of the book here somewhere -- it wasn't one of the books that I was rushing to pick up and read since I was so caught up in other ones, but I guess I should change that, huh?

C.B. James said...

I do like reviews that include videos, and I liked this one. I love the archival footage they used.

Hurston is an interesting writer. I will agree that Their Eyes Were Watching God is a wonderful book, probably one of the best American novels of the century. But I don't think she had all that mush influence on the Harlem Rennaisance. I always understood she was on the sidelines of it. She did basically vanish from the scene afterwards.

And to claim she's as important as Mark Twain as the authors do in the video is hyperbole. Tom and Huck are central figures in the American mythos. It's difficult to come up with anyone who's their equal. Maybe Superman.

Enjoy the holiday season. I'm looking forward to it all myself.

Zibilee said...

I have been reading great reviews of this all over the place, and I so want to read this book. It sounds like it got the flavor of Hurston's youth just right and I bet it would be a great book to share with my daughter. Wonderful review, as always!

patebooks said...

I saw your post on this earlier but waited to read it until after I had blogged my review.

A really fun book, and, for us, lots of local color.

Hoping there may be a sequel!

Alice Teh said...

I remember this one as one of the books selected for the Okra Pick. I didn't pick this one for the challenge, though.

Kathleen said...

Sounds like wonderful, heartwarming book!