Alice Walker’s 1975 article “Looking for Zora” (originally published in Ms. magazine and reprinted in the collection In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens, 1983) follows the author on a journey through Eatonville, FL to find the unmarked grave of Zora Neale Hurston. At the time, Hurston had fallen out of popularity and died in a welfare home. A collection was taken up for her burial and her grave sat unmarked in a run-down cemetery. Walker, pretending to be Hurston’s niece, is accompanied by Charlotte Hunt, who is researching Hurston. Of the ruse Walker writes: “as far as I’m concerned, she is my aunt – and that of all black people as well.” Walker eventually finds the grave and buys a small marker for it; all the while she interviews people of Eatonville for any information about Hurston’s life. The article is interspersed with excerpts from Hurston’s writing, as well as quotes from articles about her and her work.
The article is beautifully written, and the storytelling aspect of it is a worthy tribute to Hurston, to say the least. I had intended to use it as part of an introduction to Their Eyes Were Watching God which I’m teaching right now (last book of the year!), but we ran really short on time. Now I wish I had worked it in somehow, because it’s such a pleasure to read. Not to mention the fact that it focuses very heavily on Their Eyes. Maybe I’ll shoehorn it into the curriculum somehow, if not it will definitely be used next time I teach the novel.
Note: The first paragraph of the page was written to be added to the Wikipedia page for Their Eyes Were Watching God under the “Critical Analyses” heading. I intend to add more articles later on, so hopefully it will “stick” as it were. I always worry that my Wikipedia edits will get tossed out for some reason. Also, why don’t all books have a critical analyses section on their Wikipedia pages?
Zora Neale Hurston photo by Carl Van Vechten (1938)