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Wrapped in Rainbows

Wrapped in Rainbows

The Life of Zora Neale Hurston

  • reading group guide
A woman of enormous talent and remarkable drive, Zora Neale Hurston published seven books, many short stories, and several articles and plays over a career that spanned more than thirty years. Today, nearly every black woman writer of significance -- including Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, and Alice Walker -- acknowledges Hurston as a literary foremother, and her 1937 masterpiece Their Eyes Were Watching God has become a crucial part of the modern literary canon.
Wrapped in Rainbows, the first biography of Zora Neale Hurston in more than twenty-five years, illuminates the adventures, complexities, and sorrows of an extraordinary life. Acclaimed journalist Valerie Boyd delves into Hurston's history -- her youth in the country's first incorporated all-black town, her friendships with luminaries such as Langston Hughes, her sexuality and short-lived marriages, and her mysterious relationship with vodou. With the Harlem Renaissance, the Great Depression, and World War II as historical backdrops, Wrapped in Rainbows not only positions Hurston's work in her time but also offers riveting implications for our own.
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  • Scribner | 
  • 528 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743253291 | 
  • February 2004
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One: Sky Blue Bottoms

There was never quite enough for Zora Neale Hurston in the world she grew up in, so she made up whatever she needed.

In her father's house, on five acres of land in central Florida, young Zora lacked no material comforts. She had eight rooms to roam; a large yard carpeted with Bermuda grass; plenty of playmates; seven siblings; ample amounts of yellow Octagon laundry soap for bathing; two big chinaberry trees for climbing; enough leftover boiled eggs to use as hand grenades on other children; and all the home-cured meat, garden-fresh collard greens, and Mama-made cornbread she could eat.

But... see more

Reading Group Guide

Wrapped in Rainbows:
The Life of Zora Neale Hurston

Discussion Points
1. Valerie Boyd's Wrapped in Rainbows describes Zora Neale Hurston's early years as an imaginative young girl. What were some of the ways in which the young Zora was able to hone her talents for creativity and art within the confines set by an irascible father? How did Hurston view her father and her mother as she grew toward adulthood?
2. What were the different dreams that Zora had as a youngster, and how did they compare with reality? What was the significance of them in her life, her writing, and her interaction with others?
3. Zora Neale Hurston viewed education as a stepping-stone to greater opportunities. Who were some of the people she encountered who assisted her in her pursuit of higher education? Why, later in her academic and research career, was she drawn to anthropology as well as to literature? How was her work interdisciplinary, combining the scientific and the creative?
4. When Hurston arrived in New York during the Harlem Renaissance, she seemed to be in the right place at the right time. What significant events took place that ushered Zora Neale Hurston into the black intelligentsia, allowing her to work with so many talented black artists during the 1920s?
5. Having grown up in the all-black southern town of Eatonville, Florida, Hurston reacted differently to racism than black Americans raised elsewhere. How did this manifest itself see more

About the Author

Valerie Boyd
Photo Credit:

Valerie Boyd

Valerie Boyd is arts editor at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Her articles, essays, and reviews have appeared in Book, Ms., The Oxford American, The Washington Post, and African-American Review. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

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