Dust Tracks on a Road: An Autobiography (Harper Perennial Modern Classics)

by Zora Neale Hurston

Other authorsMaya Angelou (Introduction)
Paperback, 2006

Call number

814 HUR

Publication

Harper Perennial Modern Classics (2006), Edition: Reissue, 308 pages

Description

Biography & Autobiography. African American Nonfiction. Nonfiction. HTML: "Warm, witty, imaginative. . . . This is a rich and winning book."??The New Yorker From Zora Neale Hurston, one of the most important African American writers of the twentieth century, comes her riveting autobiography??now available in a limited Olive Edition. First published in 1942 at the height of her popularity, Dust Tracks on a Road is Zora Neale Hurston's candid, funny, bold, and poignant autobiography??an imaginative and exuberant account of her childhood in the rural South and her rise to a prominent place among the leading artists and intellectuals of the Harlem Renaissance. As compelling as her acclaimed fiction, Hurston's very personal literary self-portrait offers a revealing, often audacious glimpse into the life??public and private??of an extraordinary artist, anthropologist, chronicler, and champion of the Black experience in America. Full of the wit and wisdom of a proud, spirited woman who started off low and climbed high, Dust Tracks on a Road is a rare treasure from one of literature's most cherish… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member FrancescaForrest
This was wonderful. ZNH tells her own story very engagingly, with plenty of reflections on race, self-determination, American culture, religion, friendship, publishing, the works. She's acerbic in her observations; I kept on writing them down. At the time she wrote the autobiography, she was at the
Show More
height of her success; a few years later she was out of the public eye, and she ended her life in poverty and obscurity, which is a terrible shame. Well, no one should die alone and impoverished, though.

Here are her words on poverty:

There is something about poverty that smells like death. Dead dreams dropping off the heart like leaves in a dry season and rotting around the feet; impulses smothered too long in the fetid air of underground caves. The soul lives in a sickly air. People can be slave-ships in shoes.


and on justice:

I too yearn for universal justice, but how to bring it about is another thing. It is such a complicated thing, for justice, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. There is universal agreement of the principle, but the application brings on the fight.


But there were lighthearted moments, too, like this, from her childhood, which I shared on Livejournal:

I used to take a seat on top of the gate post and watch the world go by. One way to Orlando ran past my house, so the carriages and cars would pass before me. The movement made me glad to see it. Often the white travelers would hail me, but more often I hailed them, and asked, "Don't you want me to go a piece of the way with you?"

They always did. I know now that I must have caused a great deal of amusement among them, but my self-assurance must have carried the point, for I was always invited to come along. I'd ride up the road for perhaps a half mile, then walk back.


I recommend it, especially if you're interested in ZNH's writing. It's both entertaining and thought provoking.
Show Less
LibraryThing member FrancescaForrest
This was wonderful. ZNH tells her own story very engagingly, with plenty of reflections on race, self-determination, American culture, religion, friendship, publishing, the works. She's acerbic in her observations; I kept on writing them down. At the time she wrote the autobiography, she was at the
Show More
height of her success; a few years later she was out of the public eye, and she ended her life in poverty and obscurity, which is a terrible shame. Well, no one should die alone and impoverished, though.

Here are her words on poverty:

There is something about poverty that smells like death. Dead dreams dropping off the heart like leaves in a dry season and rotting around the feet; impulses smothered too long in the fetid air of underground caves. The soul lives in a sickly air. People can be slave-ships in shoes.


and on justice:

I too yearn for universal justice, but how to bring it about is another thing. It is such a complicated thing, for justice, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. There is universal agreement of the principle, but the application brings on the fight.


But there were lighthearted moments, too, like this, from her childhood, which I shared on Livejournal:

I used to take a seat on top of the gate post and watch the world go by. One way to Orlando ran past my house, so the carriages and cars would pass before me. The movement made me glad to see it. Often the white travelers would hail me, but more often I hailed them, and asked, "Don't you want me to go a piece of the way with you?"

They always did. I know now that I must have caused a great deal of amusement among them, but my self-assurance must have carried the point, for I was always invited to come along. I'd ride up the road for perhaps a half mile, then walk back.


I recommend it, especially if you're interested in ZNH's writing. It's both entertaining and thought provoking.
Show Less
LibraryThing member snash
Zora's autobiography was most enjoyable for its language full of inventive metaphor. Particularly towards the end she gets up on her soap box a bit too much for my taste.
LibraryThing member alanteder
Entertaining autobiography of an American roots writer.
Review of the Audible Audio edition (2016) narrated by Bahni Turpin (was the Audible Daily Deal on February 19, 2019).

This was an entertaining overview of American roots writer Zora Neale Hurston's (1891-1960) life and career as written from
Show More
her own point of view in 1942. It doesn't provide a complete biographical arc. Although the audiobook shares a cover image with 2010's Perennial Modern Classics Deluxe edition it does not include the Maya Angelou foreword, the Valerie Boyd biographical note, and the P.S. bonus materials sections. Some of that extra material would have been useful for context as the latter part of the autobiography becomes more of a series of essays on religion and slavery. This is followed up with the final 6th of the audiobook (about 2 hours of the total 11. 4 hours) being a series of appendices with further essay material (some of which repeats stories that already appear in the biography proper). So some confusion does result in understanding why the book is structured the way it is and how much it has now been rearranged by latter day editors.

Still, it is enormously entertaining for the most part and was enhanced by actress Bahni Turpin's vocal performance. Hurston interjects various digressions of anecdotes and folk tales into her through story which provides considerable opportunity for Turpin to perform everything from Boston Irish accents to Fire & Brimstone pulpit speeches. I have only otherwise read Hurston's classic "Their Eyes Were Watching God" and likely some of her other works are now hard to find, but I think they would make for similarly enjoyable Americana roots reading in the present day. I had not known previously that Hurston was a student of anthropologist Franz Boas for instance or about her gathering of information on Hoodoo rituals and practices in Louisiana and those of Voodoo in Haiti.
Show Less
LibraryThing member sparemethecensor
Even without a tutored read, I can wholeheartedly recommend Dust Tracks on a Road. Hurston is a phenomenal writer. I love the way she uses local and contemporaneous dialect seamlessly in her higher brow and lower brow stories within the autobiography.

Having read the introduction, I did feel like I
Show More
could spot a few places where she was keeping distance from the reader. I also wished to learn more about the Harlem Renaissance than she includes (which I may try to do later). But I liked this regardless. Of particular note, in my opinion, are the chapters where she talks about her writing process (fascinating) and the story of her mother's death (wrenching).
Show Less
LibraryThing member froxgirl
This pioneer was lost (really lost, in an unmarked grave) and then found by Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple. Writer, anthropologist, domestic worker, and sharp observer of relations between the races and genders in the '30s - 50's, she is best known for her novel Their Eyes Were Watching
Show More
God. Hurston was also inclined to strong narratives about heterosexual relationships, as influenced by her non-affectionate mother, who died when she was only nine; a bitter physical war with her stepmother; and her two ex-husbands. Also included in this memoir are three essays that define her stance on "race men" - she did not believe that any race should ever be judged as a single entity, but only as individuals. Hurston was also a non-believer, putting her at great odds with her community of Eatonville, FL, the only incorporated all-Black town in the country. Her stirring writings on "My People! My People!" will be puzzling to modern readers, who will be surprised at her seeming lack of interest in social justice and in reparations. Fore and afterwords by Maya Angelou and Henry Gates Jr provide context but do not make excuses for Hurston's courting of wealthy white patrons. Hurston is a folk writer in two senses of the word - she writes beautifully and understands "common" folk and speaks so evocatively in the vernacular of working class and poor people. Her loss of literati favor and her eventual obscurity are painful to discover, as surely it was for Hurston, perhaps due to falling out of favor with the white editors who helped her get started, and to her disagreements with other Black writers such as Langston Hughes and Richard Wright. This is as strong a coming-of-age story as has ever been told.

Quotes: “My grandmother glared at me like open-faced hell and snorted: I vominates a lying tongue.”

“There is an age when children are fit company for spirits. Before they have absorbed too many of earthly things to be able to fly with the unseen things that soar.”

“Rome, the eternal city, meant two different things to my parents. To Mama, it meant you must build it today so it could last through eternity. To Papa, it meant that you could plan to lay some bricks today and you have the rest of eternity to finish it. With all time, why hurry? God had made more time than anything else, anyway. Why act so stingy about it?”

“You cannot have knowledge and worship at the same time. Mystery is the essence of the divine. Gods must keep their distance from men.”

“I was careful to do my classwork. I felt the ladder under my feet.”

“It is one of the tragedies of life that one cannot have all the wisdom one is ever to possess in the beginning. “

“There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside you.”

“Niagara Falls was just like watching the ocean jump off Pike’s Peak.”
Show Less
LibraryThing member Ghost_Boy
"Light came to me when I realized that I did not have to consider any racial group as a whole. God made them duck by duck and that was the only way I could see them. I learned that skins were no measure of what was inside people. So none of the Race cliché meant anything anymore. I began to laugh
Show More
at both white and black who claimed special blessings on the basis of race. Therefore I saw no curse in being black, nor no extra flavor by being white."

To me, this quote pretty much summarizes Zora's philosophy on life. I've said this once and I'll say it again: Zora was Zora. She wasn't trying to be anyone but herself. This isn't a "feel sorry for me" autobiography. This is a "this is who I am" autobiography. She was a storyteller and a somewhat of a humorist and that is what you will get reading this I hope.

I think most people know Zora as the author of Their Eyes Were Watching God. I did love that book, but that's not the only thing she wrote. She was a very talented woman and deserves more credit than being the author of that book. She wrote a ton about folklore. She grew up liking fairy tales and mythology stories. She did a lot of traveling and gathered oral stories to put on paper for the world to read. Even though this is non-fiction, I liked the fact it read like a Zora folktale as well.

I honestly like her views on race. I don't talk about it much, but I share the same views as her and were not even the same race or sex. She believed that race didn't define who you were as a person. She saw good and bad in all race. It's funny reading this because she was living in a time oddly similar to what is happening now. Yet her view points are polar to what the social media likes to claim which is true. She didn't agree with Democrats, Socialist, or Communist. She didn't like people who took pride in there race nor did she like them forming groups. To her blacks were not a group, but individual people. She'll even admit blacks don't get along with other blacks. She didn't get along with her "folks" either. All she had to do was say she was a Republican and they would turn the other way. Although, most people think she would be a Libertarian today.

I also love what she said about her writing. Her first book wasn't liked by her black peers. It wasn't politically angry enough for them. I haven't read her first book yet, but doesn't seem like it has anything to do with politics. Her whole life she just wanted to write about what she wanted to write about. Apparently, she had people telling her what to write. This isn't mentioned in the this book because it's after, but her last book was abut a white woman and she was told blacks can't write about whites...well she proved them wrong.

I really loved this book and I love Zora. She teaches me not to fall into a label. Be myself. She also teaches me to move on with my life. Love the here and now. Don't bottle up emotions from the past because i'm are only hurting yourself. If I ever write an autobiography I hope to produce something like this, not exactly like this, but clearly this book inspired me more than I thought. This book is get for independent thinking.
Show Less
LibraryThing member streamsong
Her father was the mayor and also a minister. Her mother, a school teacher died while Zora was young and her father quickly remarried. Zora and her stepmother didn’t get along so Zora found herself cast off and very independent from her mid teen years.

She had a series of dream visions foretelling
Show More
her future. At many points in her life, she was able to confirm what was occurring by one of these foretellings.

She began her career as an anthropologist, collecting black folk tales and songs from the south.

Fiercely independent, with an absolute gift for laugh out loud funny, but often acerbic words: (“My grandmother glared at me like open-faced hell and snorted: I vominates a lying tongue.”)

This memoir was written in 1942 when she was at the top of her game as a writer, and a leader in the Harlem Renaissance.

Besides the memoir, there are three of her essays, including her thoughts on being a ‘race man’. I cannot but wonder if some of these thoughts led to her eventual obscurity in a time when blacks were eager to claim their rightful place after centuries of being treated as lesser.

“Light came to me when I realized that I did not have to consider any racial group as a whole. God made them duck by duck and that was the only way I could see them. I learned that skins were no measure of what was inside people. So none of the Race cliché meant anything anymore. I began to laugh at both white and black who claimed special blessings on the basis of race. Therefore I saw no curse in being black, nor no extra flavor by being white."

Highly recommended. I will be reading more by Zora Neale Hurston.
Show Less

Pages

308

ISBN

0060854081 / 9780060854089
Page: 0.1999 seconds