Zora Neale Hurston
A Life in American History
by Stephanie Li
January 2020, 220pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, ABC-CLIO

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-6654-8
$69, £54, 60€, A95
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-6655-5
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Hurston is largely known for her first novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, but her writings are diverse and include plays, short stories, political essays, and memoirs.

In this biography, chronological chapters follow Zora Neale Hurston's family, upbringing, education, influences, and major works, placing these experiences within the context of American history.

This biography of Zora Neale Hurston, one of the most influential African American writers of the 20th century and a central figure in the Harlem Renaissance, is primarily for students and will cover all of the major points of development in Hurston’s life as well as her major publications.

Hurston’s impact extends beyond the literary world: she also left her mark as an anthropologist whose ethnographic work portrays the racial struggles during the early 20th century American South. This work includes a preface and narrative chapters that explore Hurston’s literary influences and the personal relationships that were most formative to her life; the final chapter, “Why Zora Neale Hurston Matters,” explores her cultural and historical significance, providing context to her writings and allowing readers a greater understanding of Hurston’s life while critically examining her major writing.


  • Provides readers with a brief history of Zora Neale Hurston's life and times
  • Discusses her primary writings
  • Elucidates her literary influences and contributions
  • Provides additional insights through sidebars, a timeline, and a bibliography with key sources
Stephanie Li holds the Susan D. Gubar Chair in Literature at Indiana University, where she is also associate vice provost of faculty development and diversity. Her teaching interests include racial representation, gender politics, and theories of resistance in nineteenth to twenty-first-century American and African American literature. She is author of five books, most recently Playing in the White: Black Writers, White Subjects and Pan-African American Literature: Signifyin(g) Immigrants in the Twenty-First Century. Her work has appeared in American Literature, Callaloo, SAQ, and various essay collections. She guest edited special issues of American Literary History and Black Camera.


"Recommended. General readers and lower-division undergraduates."—Choice, September 1, 2020

Black History Lives

This biography series explores the lives of the most iconic figures in African American history, with material that supports state standards while highlighting the subject’s significance in our contemporary world. Each volume includes a narrative of the life of each subject, a chapter on the subject’s larger cultural and historical significance, a chronology, a comprehensive bibliography, and sidebars that offer pertinent cultural connections to the worlds of social, political, intellectual, and popular culture. An appendix of primary document excerpts rounds out each volume. Readers of the Black History Lives series will gain a greater understanding of the outside events and influences that shaped each subject’s world, from familial relationships to political and cultural developments.


Series foreword Biographical narrative chapters Why X Matters chapter that explores the subject’s importance within the context of American history Timeline Bibliography Primary Source Documents “Cultural Connections” Sidebars Index
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