Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston
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Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston

4.18 of 5 stars 4.18  ·  rating details  ·  491 ratings  ·  64 reviews
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 maste...more
Paperback, 528 pages
Published February 3rd 2004 by Scribner (first published 2002)
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The Big Sea by Langston HughesTalking at the Gates by James CampbellI Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya AngelouDust Tracks on a Road by Zora Neale HurstonI Wonder as I Wander by Langston Hughes
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Like other reviewers, I found this book impossible to put down. Boyd's biography of Zora Neale Hurston beautifully represents Hurston in all her complexity: novelist, playwright, anthropologist, folklorist, raconteur, individualist. Hurston emerges as an flawed, deeply gifted, experienced woman who lived her life according to her own terms, in the midst of societal constraints that limited her financial resources, but never her autonomy.

Valerie Boyd mentions that one of her goals in writing this...more
It has been years since I stayed up past my bedtime to read the last 100 pages of a book that I just cannot put down. Despite having studied Zora Neale Hurston's work (esp. Their Eyes Were Watching God) several times over the course of high school and college, Valerie Boyd's portrayal of the author radically expanded my knowledge and appreciation of Hurston.

In high school, I remember learning that Hurston died poor and was buried in an unmarked grave. Boyd's book made me realize how strongly thi...more
4.5 stars - I absolutely loved this biography. It was extremely well-researched and rendered so passionately that it was very hard to turn away from the page. I especially enjoyed reading of Zora's time in school in Maryland, and then at Howard and Barnard; her intense friendship with Langston Hughes; her tireless work recording the ways of the "lowest among us" in the South and Caribbean; her rise to literary fame; and her ardent desire to write, direct, produce, and star in her own theatrical...more
Hurston was a remarkable writer who imbued every word with her own lively, incandescent spirit. Would that one could say the same for Boyd. While her research is extraordinary, ( how I long to read all those unpublished essays she discovered!) she seems to feel obliged to include every last anecdote about Hurston's eating, smoking, clothing and housekeeping habits, which makes an otherwise fascinating story somewhat difficult to wade through. However, Hurston's unquenchable genius blazes across...more
Being a fan of African-American classic literature, I naturally was a fan of Zora Neale Hurston's most acclaimed classic 'There Eyes Were Watching God'. After instantly falling in love with the sheer talent of Hurston in this novel, I was intrigued by the psyche of Hurston and wanted to read and learn more about this wonderful person. This book is superbly written with consistent evidence of a well-resourced biography. This book offers a plethora of information that makes the reader more persona...more
Jan 17, 2011 Mary marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: done-reading
To be honest I wanted to read this book because I had read once that Zora Neale Hurston was a lesbian, a part of the glbt history that I am interested in. However, there is no concrete mention in this book that she is/was a lesbian.

I did however appreciate Valerie Boyd's extensive look in the life of Zora Neale Hurston. Zora was an amazing woman in my opinion. She was a strong person and had a strong personality which enabled her to make connections with certain wealthy benefactors during that t...more
Gabrielle David
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I read it slowly. Valerie Boyd is a magician, she managed to capture the essence of a woman who has always been a somewhat difficult subject (much of Hurston's belongings were lost after she died) and managed to personalize her, in a genuine voice. This is a great book!
What a tremendous biography. I was first introduced to Zora Neale Hurston through I Love Myself When I’m Laughing...& Then Again When I Am Looking Mean and Impressive (A Zora Neale Hurston Reader), anthology edited by Alice Walker. Since then I’ve meant to read more of her work but always found her a bit intimidating. After reading Valerie Boyd’s biography of Zora Neale Hurston her books will definitely move up the ladder on my to be read list.

Valerie Boyd must have spent years researching h...more
I don't read too many biographies, but, as Ms. Hurston is one of my favorite authors and inspired me to study anthropology, I picked this up. Ms. Boyd's work reads as easily as a novel. Zora Neale Hurston's inimitable personality shines throughout a fascinating life of highs (e.g., the Harlem Renaissance, folklore-collecting expeditions), and not-so-highs (as a maid later in life--her employer didn't even know of her literary accomplishments!). Ms. Hurston demonstrated some interesting and contr...more
This book is a smooth read, very inviting - comfortable. Like listening to Billie Holiday's 'Strange Fruit' while sipping a nice port. It enabled you to walk with Zora through her life. Touched on very important times/events/people in history - Harlem Renaissance, Jim Crow, Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Alain Locke... A magical time. A remarkable woman - independent, formidable, resilient, courageous. She lived her life on her terms regardless of what was going on around her. Well done Ms. Bo...more
I first learned about Zora Neale Hurston in the 12th grade. My teacher wanted us to read, Their Eyes Were Watching God. As an avid reader of Dickens, Alcott sisters, Austen and other stories centered around a manners and class, I was thrown into a world that I was unfamiliar with. Hurston steeped me into a part of the south that I never heard about. She also gave me a female heroine that tackled and overcame many obstacles. Through Hurston's world I learned of love that never was, love that was...more
I found this book too verbose. While Zora Hurston was a very interesting person, the author included too much information--it drowned in detail. I had to force myself to finish it for a book club meeting.

However,I am now interested in reading Zora Hurston's books. Previously, I had never heard of Zora Hurston--probably because my home is in the western US.

I read little biography. I'll admit, I'm rarely enthralled by a person's entire life, cradle to grave. Zora Neale Hurston is an exception. And this book is an exception. A lovely portrait of a complex life. It's both good research and good reading.
I really enjoyed this biography. It is well-researched and gives us Zora Neale Hurston in her environments: the Harlem Renaissance, the Great Depression, living in Florida on a houseboat. Her work as an anthropologist is recognized here, at long last. She wasn't very successful at marriage, but she was much more successful with her friendships. For money to live, she toiled as a librarian, for $1.88 per hour, when she was 65 years old, two weeks after being a special podium guest at Bethune-Cook...more
Zora Neale Hurston is one of those historic figures whom it’s easy to believe you know a good deal about—until you actually endeavor to find out more. How little I knew! I was surprised and heartened to learn that Hurston did not publish her work until age thirty-four, her first novel not appearing until after her fortieth birthday. And while I was familiar with Hurston’s literary reputation, I didn’t realize how much of her life was devoted to anthropology and marked by her deep appreciation fo...more
Tatum Little
Zora Neale Hurston was an amazing woman. I'm not exaggerating; This book changed my life. It's well written and well researched.
Just read this for a conference on Hurston. Very thorough, so you'd better be a fan of Hurston to take this one on!
Aug 05, 2013 Andrew rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: some people
I felt like Valerie Boyd wasn't impartial enough when I read the book. There wasn't enough objectivity by Boyd to be frank she sounded like a groupie when I read this book. It was obvious reading this book that Boyd is a huge fan of Hurston. I was irritated because Boyd isn't being honest Zora Neale Hurston was of course a literary genius. However, Hurston was also a very complicated woman who also I feel had issues with self hatred which Boyd didn't explore enough.

However, to be a biographer, I...more
Stranded on an island, this is the one book I would have to have and could read over and over again for the rest of my life. Valerie Boyd brings Zora back to life, through her flawless ability to weave Zora's spoken words throughout the factual narrative. You feel as if you are transported back in time, walking side by side with Zora throughout her life. Though I'm not enrolled in school, I treated this book like an independent summer course in women's studies. I took my time and highlighted key...more
Jul 23, 2008 Eric rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: I don’t say this lightly, This aint for beginners
Shelves: black-america
So far a pretty deep look at a figure loved both by the Black Bourgeois and white liberals. Its disturbing because
while they say its about her fiesty independence, what they really are drawn too is her personal self loathing and her loathing of radical and progressive Black people.


o.k. my previous comments were much too simplistic. This women was so deep, heroic, and still disturbingly..... I don't know. This well written book was a hard read because of her complexity, love and...more
This is an excellent and exhaustively researched biography. It's one of those books that gets better as it goes along. At first, I found the writing style a little hagiographic, but in later chapters, the tone settled down--and the fact remains that Zora Neale Hurston was a remarkable woman. This book isn't just about her, it's about the Harlem Renaissance, early 20th-century race relations, and WWII and the post-war era as seen through the eyes of African Americans. It's an amazingly detailed e...more
I discovered Zora late in life, as a late-in-life grad school student of literature and creative writing. This book illuminates Zora's fifty year passion to create and her road to publishing Their Eyes Were Watching God, one of the 10 best books I've ever read. She is a heroine to be reckoned with and one deeply grasps the Zora in Janie, chasing the horizon, the best porch tale -- and a little spot on earth all her own. As a later in life author, who was also a newspaper arts editor as author Va...more
An excellent study and exploration of Hurston's life. One thing I particularly appreciated about Boyd's exhaustive (but never exhausting) study was her ability to communicate some of the themes and motivations of Hurston's life. She provides a context for many of Hurston's public statements, particularly on race, which are much more complex than sometimes portrayed.

I would also say to any aspiring writers reading this who may think that we live in discouraging times that this book indicates that...more
Well written, well researched book. You are drawn into Zora Neale Hurston's life and world. This book may be far more truthful than Zora's own "autobiography."
The historian in me loved this book. I thought I knew much about Zora Neale Hurston's life but this book showed me that I missed so much. This was a well researched and written book that shows the complexity of Miss Hurston. She lived a long life that was truly her own which is how she wanted to live, as her own person, on her own terms, and doing those things that she wanted to do, no matter how it conflicted with the time. This book made visible her independence and brilliance. So glad I picke...more
I am a fan of Zora Neale Hurston especially after reading Their Eyes Were Watching God in the 11th grade. I am interested in who she was and why she wrote and this book gave me those answers. This book is well researched and well written. I enjoyed reading the stories of how she lived, the friends she made, and how she wrote. I also really enjoyed how the author integrated stories of the Harlem Renaissance and other black artist of that time to give a whole picture. It took me a really long time...more
"Wrapped in Rainbows" is an exceptional biography of the brilliant and inspiring writer and anthropologist, Zora Neale Hurston. I have been interested in literature, languages, and cultural traditions for most of my life. The Harlem Renaissance has always been an era of particular focus.

I thought that I was familiar with Zora Neale Hurston, her works, her education and her life in general. How wrong I was. She was such a complex person that I want to research her even more thoroughly after readi...more
This was a fascinating, meticulously researched, and well written biography. I enjoyed reading it. I learned so much about Hurston that allows me to better understand her writing and point of view. I read this in conjunction with a collection of her writing which was a fun way to see her develop on the page.
The only reason I did not give five stars is because the book is so dense with infoemation that I sometimes had trouble making it through a page....but Rainbows definitely deserves four and...more
I don't think I'm ever going to 'finish' this one, but instead I'll keep it around forever as a reference and for inspiration on how to fight the man through sheer willfulness.
I read this book so I could take part in the Zoras book discussion during LFPL's Big Read. Betty Baye and friends meet once a month at Barnes & Noble in Louisville. Of course they had already read "Their Eyes Were Watching God" (hince the book group name) so they chose to read this biography of Hurston. The writing was interesting and well researched. I'm so glad I was able to take part with the group for their discussion. One of the perks of my job!
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