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The Chase and Ruins

Zora Neale Hurston in Honduras

Sharony Green

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A fascinating look at a pivotal period in Zora Neale Hurston's life that reimagines her complicated legacy.

Zora Neale Hurston, an anthropologist and writer best known for her classic novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, led a complicated life often marked by tragedy and contradictions. When both she and her writing fell out of favor after the Harlem Renaissance, she struggled not only to regain an audience for her novels but also to simply make ends meet. In The Chase and Ruins, Sharony Green uncovers an understudied but important period of Hurston's life: her stay in Honduras in the late 1940s...

A fascinating look at a pivotal period in Zora Neale Hurston's life that reimagines her complicated legacy.

Zora Neale Hurston, an anthropologist and writer best known for her classic novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, led a complicated life often marked by tragedy and contradictions. When both she and her writing fell out of favor after the Harlem Renaissance, she struggled not only to regain an audience for her novels but also to simply make ends meet. In The Chase and Ruins, Sharony Green uncovers an understudied but important period of Hurston's life: her stay in Honduras in the late 1940s.

On the eve of an awful accusation that nearly led to her suicide, Hurston fled to Honduras in search of a lost Mayan ruin. During her yearlong trip south of the US border, she appears to have never found the ruin she was chasing. But by escaping the Jim Crow south to Honduras, she avoided racist violence in the United States while still embracing her privilege—and power—as a US citizen in postwar Central America. While in Honduras, Hurston wrote Seraph on the Suwanee, her final novel and her only book to feature white characters, in an attempt to appeal to Hollywood's growing appetite for "crackerphilia" (stories about poor white folks) and to finally secure herself some financial stability. In a letter to her editor, Hurston wrote that in Honduras, she may not have found the Mayan ruin she was looking for, but she finally found herself.

Hurston's experience in Honduras has much to teach us about Black women's lives and the thorny politics of postwar America as well as America's long and complicated entanglement with Central America. In an attempt to find historical meaning in an extraordinary woman's conceptions of herself in a changing world, Green unearths letters, diaries, literary writings, research reports, and other archival materials. The Chase and Ruins encourages us to reckon with and reimagine Hurston's fascinating life in all of its complexity and contradictions.

Reviews

Reviews

The Chase and Ruins is a prismatic excavation of the most underrepresented period of Zora Neale Hurston's life. But Sharony Green doesn't just tell the story. There is love in these pages.

With minute examination of Hurston's correspondence and extensive speculation and imagining, Sharony Green seeks to recover Hurston's stay in Honduras in 1947. Layered with history, geography, agriculture, politicians, businesspeople, researchers, and travel writers, the book emphasizes that Hurston is still as mysteriously intriguing as she was at the peak of her career.

This compelling chronicle of Zora Neale Hurston's quixotic search for a Mayan ruin explores the political, social, and historical context of Hurston's final years, the last chapter of a fascinating life informed, but not defined, by her identity as a Black American woman. A powerful book.

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About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
192
ISBN
9781421446660
Illustration Description
5 b&w photos, 4 b&w illus.
Table of Contents

Foreword
Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Afterword
Bibliography
Acknowledgments

Author Bio
Sharony Green
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Sharony Green

Sharony Green, an award-winning writer, is an associate professor of history at the University of Alabama.