Vigorous writings from a controversial and important cultural critic.


A collection of Hurston’s trenchant, acerbic commentaries on Black life.

Edited, introduced, and extensively annotated by scholars Gates and West, 50 essays written over nearly four decades showcase the uncompromising views of novelist, anthropologist, folklorist, and critic Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960). Organized thematically into sections focusing on “the Folk,” race, gender, art, politics, and the scandalous trial of a Black woman accused of killing her White lover, the essays cohere to present Hurston’s “lifelong attempt to reclaim traditional Black folk culture from racist and classist degradations, to share with her readers the ‘race pride’ she felt, to build the race from within.” In the title essay, among the handful previously unpublished, Hurston excoriates Whites for assuming that they understand anything about Black experience. “Most white people have seen our shows but not our lives,” she wrote in 1958. “If they have not seen a Negro show they have seen a minstrel or at least a black-face comedian and that is considered enough.” She hurled criticism at some Blacks, as well: After Harlem Renaissance leader Alain Locke panned her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, she damned him as a fraud. In “Which Way the NAACP?” written in 1957, Hurston questioned “the interpretation of ‘advancement’ ” by the organization that pressed for school integration. “One has to be persuaded that a Negro suffers enormously by being deprived of physical contact with the Whites and be willing to pay a terrible price to gain it,” she wrote. Co-founded by W.E.B. Du Bois, the NAACP, she predicted, “will remain a self-constituted dictatorship so long as it does not ask and receive a mandate from the entire Negro population of the United States.” Writing during the Harlem Renaissance, Jim Crow, and civil rights unrest, Hurston argued for recognizing “the full richness of the African American experience” through its unique contributions to art, music, and language.

Vigorous writings from a controversial and important cultural critic.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-304385-5

Page Count: 412

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

Did you like this book?

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 11

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

  • National Book Award Winner

  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist



The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

Did you like this book?