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Mules and Men

4.09  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,023 Ratings  ·  82 Reviews
Set intimately within the social context of black life, this is a collection of stories, "big old lies," songs, voodoo customs and superstitions passed down through oral tradition.
Paperback, 341 pages
Published January 22nd 1990 by HarperPerennial (first published 1978)
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The Harlem Renaissance
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186th out of 603 books — 760 voters

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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Oct 14, 2012 Deb rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobooks, fiction
First off, I didn't read this book but listened to it on an audiobook version. This is a collection of black American folk lore. It is a a group of oral stories that were passed on to and written down by author Zora Neale Hurston (known for Their Eyes Were Watching God). Some of these stories were told back in the days of slavery and ones that Zora heard as a child. This was a project that Ms Hurston started back in the 1930s when she had returned to her hometown of Eatonville, Florida.

What a wo
Arlene (Urbrightside)
4.0 Stars. Since this was an abridge version of the book, which I didn't know that I had, I wasn't sure if i would have liked it. There was one tale, or "lie" as it is said to be in the book that I felt was cut off, maybe it was just bad editing. But other than that, this was a pleasure to listen to. It is told from Zora's POV and recalls tales, or lies as they are called, that she has heard from her childhood told by the people of her hometown. I think some of them are ridiculous, like the one ...more
Mules and Men should be read right along side Joseph Campbell's work. I was drawn more to the anthropological aspect of the book, more so than the literary merits (which it has lots of). Most people forget that Zora Neale Hurston was an Anthropologist who completed extensive fieldwork. In all of her works, anthropology plays an essential role. The use and importance of language is a reoccurring theme of hers, and in Mules and Men it is given equal examination along side African-American mytholog ...more
Jan 26, 2012 Ann rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Zora Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God is my favorite book, the descriptions are like deep-pile velvet. I expected the same style from Mules and Men. As I understand it, she collected these stories as part of a project at Barnard over a period of at least 7 years and did not initially write after she collected the information,but made another trip back to her birthplace, though I would have trouble calling it her "home" since she seemed to carry that sense of home with her, perhaps a nomad ...more
Sean A.
Aug 23, 2011 Sean A. rated it really liked it
this proved to be a lively and approachable vision of the 'big lies' (folktales) of southern black folk from an era that seems bygone or at least far away to a white midwesterner living in the 21st century such as myself. the content of these tales is biting yet down-to-earth, over-the-top yet earnest. the narrative is made up almost entirely of a travelogue of sorts, with our narrator going from town to town in florida documenting different variations of the oral tradition of these towns, story ...more
Ronald Wilcox
Dec 02, 2012 Ronald Wilcox rated it really liked it
An excellent collection of "lies" or stories as told by African-Americans in the early twentieth century. I also found the section on Hoodoo at the end enjoyable but wish she had presented this information in a story format rather than in a reporting style.
Mar 06, 2010 Shannon rated it liked it
It was really exciting to be reading this book in New Orleans as Ms. Hurston described the old art of hoodoo/voodoo. I love this first person anthropological research style of book.
Dec 10, 2010 Whitaker rated it liked it
A really great book shows us how everything is great and worth to die for
May 15, 2015 Kayleigh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone/people who like culture and stories
This was such a deeply interesting - and entertaining - book. Zora Neale Hurston led the kind of adventurous life that allowed her to gather the stories of not only her own adventures, but also the folklore of those around her. If Zora Neale Hurston weren't a wonderful writer, the stories and documentation of songs and voodoo recipes going on in these pages would still be very interesting, but the fact that she *can* write like her pen has a soul of its own makes this collection great. Another t ...more
Mar 15, 2010 Charlotte rated it liked it
Columbus is to have a Chatauqua this summer, and part of the prep is monthly reviews of authors that are to be featured at the Chatauqua. This book was the topic of discussion in February. Zora Neale Hurston, an educated black, takes on the task of capturing black folklore in the 1930's. She returns to her hometown, then travels to others. The book includes both her adventures and the stories she gathers as she identifies with the people she encounters and gains their trust. The first half of th ...more
Paul Haspel
Folklore is all around us, it seems. At a time when anthropologists were seeking out the most isolated populations possible, in order to find what about them was "quaint" or different, Zora Neale Hurston had the presence of mind to perceive that a brilliant and resonant folk culture was to be found in her own hometown of Eatonville, Florida. Therefore she left her university studies in the North and returned to her Southern hometown to gather examples of African-American folk culture. The first ...more
Batgrl (Book Data Kept Elsewhere)
(April 2013) Reread this as part of the collection Folklore, Memoirs and Other Writing, reposting review and quotes here. All page numbers are from that version.

In her books that are mostly anthropology (Mules and Men, Tell My Horse) Hurston is always a participant-observer, and she never fails to be clear/blunt about her point of view, whether that's on the role and treatment of women, the poor, or the politicians. She takes a hard look at race, both in the US and in other countries, and doesn'
Feb 11, 2013 Kirstie rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: People interested in folk talkes, Hoodoo, African history
I need to go back and re-read Their Eyes Were Watching God. It has been quite a few years since I read that and I remember the feelings I felt while reading better than actual details. In any case, this is a bit of a different novel-it's closer to nonfiction with a focal point being the lies or tall tales of the African communities from Florida to New Orleans in the 1930s. Zora was a bit of an outsider even though she was born in the South and was an African American woman because she was educat ...more
April Harrison
Jan 21, 2014 April Harrison rated it it was amazing
Zora Neale Hurston studied under the "father of anthropology," Franz Boas. After completing her degree, her first project was an ethnography of black folklore. To begin her research, she went to the heart of the source as she knew it: her hometown of Eatonville, FL. From there she travels to work camps down through the Everglades, then off to New Orleans to study voodoo. Because of her personal connection to the area and many of her sources, she includes herself in the narrative, blending memoir ...more
Reading this one for a class, but I really like Zora Neale Hurston so I was quite excited to see this on the required reading! A lot of folklore, history, and culture in here, and I'm especially loving the African American tales Hurston managed to gather from the South. This book is both interesting and entertaining!

Now that I've finished the book, I have to say that I really enjoyed the history Zora preserved in here. The tales, jokes, and customs of the times are quite beautifully preserved he
Becky Hirtzel
May 10, 2014 Becky Hirtzel rated it liked it
The collection of tall tales and voodoo practices she collected are a treasure. The tall tales half of the book was hard to plow through, like reading a joke book straight through. The voodoo was much more story-like and interesting.
May 21, 2014 DC rated it really liked it
Very entertaining and interesting - more of an ethnography and not really a novel. The two halves are very different, but equally worthwhile.
May 04, 2013 Seana rated it it was amazing
I was reading this book more for research purposes. I've read a lot of Hurston over time, and I thought that since this was more or less an anthropological study that she wrote, I wouldn't enjoy it as much. I expected a lot of tales recounted in a dry anthropological sort of way. Far from the case. There was apparently some talk at the time that she hadn't put this all together in a strictly scientific way, and if so, it's much the better for it. With a storyteller's gift, she sets the tales in ...more
Mar 17, 2015 Teri rated it really liked it
Was read this book in high school then purchased it later! Left quite an impact!!
Sep 14, 2009 kasia rated it liked it
Although Hurston is certainly more of a storyteller than an anthropologist, this still reads like a field notebook. The folklore is often fascinating - particularly incredible is the way all these tropes from various other works come up. There's a version of Faust in here, plenty of fairy tales, Biblical tales, etc, just recast. Pretty neat. The voodoo section, which I was particularly excited about, was actually a fairly dry description ("First you do this. Then this. Then this.").
Nov 29, 2015 Elise rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 15, 2014 Ketty rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audio-books
Ruby Dee narrated and earned this one an additional star.
Mar 23, 2016 Patty rated it it was ok
Got a little repetitive and boring.
Julie Gardner
Jan 01, 2015 Julie Gardner marked it as to-read
Published the year I was born
Nov 02, 2011 Melanie rated it liked it
This is really two different books. The first book is stories or lies that [s. Hurston captured during the Great Depression. These are best to read one or two and set aside. Maybe even read outloud. While there were some I enjoyed this isn't something that I would normally read. The second half is about Voodoo or Hoodoo and Ms. Hurston's experiences learning it. This had more of a flow that I am used to reading and enjoyed it much more. Overall, I can appreciate this, but not something I would b ...more
Aug 07, 2015 Camille rated it really liked it
studying your people to know thyself
Nov 18, 2015 Jessica rated it liked it
Many entertaining tales and lies are in this collection that has a loose story tying it together of Hurston going about getting the stories from folks. I could have done without part 2 about hoodoo/voodoo, that felt like it should have been its own book and did not fit with part 1.
Waheedah Bilal
Sep 20, 2012 Waheedah Bilal rated it it was amazing
Ms. Hurston was a gifted storyteller, but she was also a trained anthropologist. Both skills are captured in this text, which is one of the finest collections of Black American folktales assembled. Her use of dialect is the most authentic anyone before her or since has done; it is simply spot on -- not demeaning or insulting, just dialect. I read these stories to my children when they were young, then consulted them when I was a grad student. Another classic; she was a genius.
Mar 07, 2015 Jennifer rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Definitely an original and unique piece. I am glad I read it, but I wouldn't want to spend the time to read it twice.
A fascinating and engaging blend of folklore and personal narrative. I loved the way that Zora allowed herself into the story and wrote the book from such a personal lens, while simultaneously capturing and collecting so many wonderful folktales and providing windows into many different social settings. The blending of genre and voice made this so much more than a collection of folktales, and really turned it into a cohesive story.
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Zora Neale Hurston was an American folklorist and author. In 1925, shortly before entering Barnard College, Hurston became one of the leaders of the literary renaissance happening in Harlem, producing the short-lived literary magazine Fire!! along with Langston Hughes and Wallace Thurman. This literary movement became the center of the Harlem Renaissance.

Hurston applied her Barnard ethnographic tr
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“It seems to me that organized creeds are collections of words around a wish. I feel no need for such. I know that nothing is destructible; things merely change forms. When the consciousness we know as life ceases, I know that I shall still be part and parcel of the world."

-Zora Neale Hurston”
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