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Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica
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Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica

3.99  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,173 Ratings  ·  77 Reviews
As a first-hand account of the weird mysteries and horrors of voodoo, "Tell My Horse" is an invaluable resource and fascinating guide. Based on Zora Neale Hurston's personal experiences in Haiti and Jamaica, where she participated as an initiate rather than just an observer of voodoo practices during her visits in the 1930s, this travelogue into a dark world paints a vivid ...more
ebook, 336 pages
Published February 19th 2008 by HarperCollins (first published 1938)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Margaret Langstaff
[review posted on my blog too]

I stumbled on a little masterpiece the other day, "Tell My Horse" by Zora Neale Hurston, in a rare bookshop. I'd been aware of this title for years (first published in 1938), but had never actually run across a copy. This particular edition (there are others more recent), published by Turtle Island Foundation, Berkeley, CA 1981, caught my attention because of its striking cover of a photograph of a Black man entranced deep within a Voodoo ritual. So I picked it up,
...more
Scott
Mar 31, 2010 Scott rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A jumble of a book with diary, travelogue, political commentary, and ethnography mashed together. I know it's not hip to not fawn over Zora Neale Hurston, but unless you really want to know about vodou in Haiti in 1937, I wouldn't recommend this book.

She deserves a significant amount of credit for her copious documentation of vodou ceremonies and songs, and for treating the religion with respect (as opposed to the sensationalist white writers of the time). But the book is lacking in context for
...more
Vicky
Around the World = Haiti

Tell My Horse is writer and folklorist Zora Neale Hurston's experiences in Jamaica and Haiti in the 1930s as she documented the voodoo rituals and beliefs practiced in these countries. Hurston also explores the African heritage shared by black Jamaicans, Hatians and Americans, and how their experiences inform their lives.

What makes this book outstanding is the depth of Hurston's personal connection to her subject; rather than giving a cool, scholarly observation of ceremo
...more
Dusty
Mar 07, 2012 Dusty rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the late 1930s Zora Neale Hurston won a Guggenheim fellowship to travel to Jamaica and Haiti to study the "cult of Voodoo." This hard-to-define book -- not quite ethnography, not quite travelogue, and not quite fiction -- is the result of that fellowship, and it's an unusual and deeply rewarding outsider's look at a part of the world the author says has too rarely been studied closely. Her purposes are many: one, to capture the oral culture of Jamaica and Haiti in written language; two, to de ...more
Marsha
Oct 23, 2011 Marsha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Zora Neale Hurston had to have been an incredible woman. Consider her past. Hurston is black woman who had to make her own way in the world when she was fourteen. She had to struggle just to survive. Remarkably, she found a way to make it back to secondary school, and further, to complete a degree when she was 36. She became an accomplished writer and anthropologist. The tenacity and self-assurance to achieve so much in the time which she lived is...overwhelming to think about.

The writing in Tel
...more
Kit Perriman
Do you believe in Zombies? Having studied Voodoo in Jamaica and Haiti, Zora Neale Hurston's book Tell My Horse (1938) claims that the undead really do exist and that she has seen proof with her own eyes!

As a member of the Harlem Renaissance, Hurston was interested in recovering authentic black feminine power. But she did not look for it in the guise of the New Woman, she wanted to reconnect with the wily, wild conjure woman from the African Ur-cultures, the pagan witches of antiquity.

Tell My Hor
...more
dianne
Aug 28, 2015 dianne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: in-uy-mid15
i had only read Their Eyes Were Watching God before this, none of her first person writing. Her childhood was so different than many, maybe most, African Americans - her parents were important leaders in a Black owned, Black run “incorporated” town in Florida. i suspect this may have been behind her eventual adoption of right wing politics, as she did NOT see how this country treated most African Americans.

Her level of comfort is obvious as she travels with apparent ease through the Black commun
...more
Maki
Dec 24, 2015 Maki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I originally found mention of this book while I was reading through The World's Greatest Unsolved Mysteries' chapter on zombies. My initial reaction was, and I quote:

"'One mother told Zora Hurston about her son who had died and been buried.' ...I would totally read a Zora Hurston collection of zombie sightings."

Turns out that Tell My Horse has very little to do with zombies. There's one chapter on them, and a few mentions here and there, but given the time this book was written, I don't blame H
...more
Katie
Aug 29, 2010 Katie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Part I on Jamaica is scattered, though I would have been satisfied with an entire book about the Maroon hog hunt. Part II on Haitian history is far too editorial for my taste. But Part III on Haitian Vodou is fairly brilliant. Hurston's description of Vodou beliefs and rituals verges on romantic, but it is also well-informed, respectful and endearing. Primarily, this is a book concerned with recording legend and relating it to ritual practice.

I can't help but see the relationship between Tell M
...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.

Orig. pub. 1938, traveling in Jamaica and Haiti, gathering folklore and voodoo lore. Participant-observer anthropology. (Note, for those it may upset: killing of various farm animals and a dog in ceremonies. Hurston's commentary in multiple areas makes it clear she doesn't enjoy this.)


Skin color in Jamaica is complicated:
p 281: "Everywh
...more
scott noble
Jul 21, 2013 scott noble rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
definitely a good read if you're curious about voodoo practices. haiti and jamaica are by far and away much more interesting places in regards to religion than our great country.

from a postcolonial perspective, i had some major issues with the way in which ZNH imposes herself into the Maroon community. she herself unconsciously colonizes the colonized. her dominating desire to get what SHE needed from them overwhelmed anthropological morale. her subversion of process makes me think that her self
...more
Karen
May 10, 2016 Karen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel-the-world
Interesting travelogue and expose of voodooism in Jamaica and Haiti.
Judah Martin
I might regret giving this book four stars. Certainly, there were some passages that troubled me- most notably Hurston's political commentary. Nevertheless I found that, for the most part, she wrote of Voodoo (Vodou) respectfully and with the purpose of dispelling Western myths that paint the religion as something other than that- a religion. I have a deep respect for Hurston and her love of the culture of the African Diaspora, which is why I don't too much mind forgiving her suspect political a ...more
Eleanor Toland
In 300 fast-paced pages, Zora Neale Hurston explores the history, culture, religion and folklore of Jamaica and (mostly) Haiti. Not only an informative book about a maligned religion, Tell My Horse is also a textbook on how to be an anthropologist and folklorist. Neale Hurston describes her methods in detail, listening, learning and exploring in order to gain as much authentic knowledge as possible about the rituals and beliefs that she's researching. Even when she encounters something offensive ...more
Drew Hoffman
Mar 05, 2014 Drew Hoffman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Intoxicatingly written, "Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica" turns an unbiased eye on the religion and folklore of which Voodoo is the centerpiece. Hurston's well researched and experienced first hand book is a can't-put-it-down treat and I learned many things-- the truth about zombies, the poisonous efficacy of graveyard dirt, possession by the Gods, etc.-- all written in a lyrically arresting style. Brilliant.
Courtney
Feb 19, 2007 Courtney rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: guide, nonfiction
A first-hand account of the mysteries and horrors of voodoo. Based on Zora Neale Hurston's personal experiences in Haiti and Jamaica, where she participated as an initiate rather than just an observer of voodoo practices during her visits in the 1930s, this travelogue into a dark world paints a vividly authentic picture of ceremonies and customs and superstitions of great cultural interest.
Rage
Jan 01, 2016 Rage rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travelogue
This is a report of Hurston's experience traveling in Jamaica and Haiti. There are personal moments and detached explanations of history, religion, and sociocultural affairs; Hurston's presence is felt throughout the book, as on a boar hunt or drinking orangeade on a swinging mattress in the screened porch of a doctor's residence in a psychiatric facility. She provides brief explanations for how she was invited to see a dance or who is the expert instructing her on voodoo/vodou, and I had the se ...more
Seth
Feb 26, 2009 Seth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is the fruit of Hurston's research on Vodou and folklore in Haiti. It is fascinating ... I read it in high school and now reading it again. Really interesting ... she hypothesizes about what is used to make zombis, which was later confirmed by Wade Davis in his research approximately 40 years later.
Zach
Jan 03, 2009 Zach rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting book. A first of its kind by way of anthropological forays into voodoo traditions in Haiti & Jamaica, but still there was a slight sense of U.S. paternalism even in Hurston's analysis. Surprising, but also interesting.
Erica
Sep 03, 2007 Erica rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Zora Neale Hurston was an anthropologist as well as a writer. This book is an account of her initiation into voodoo in the early twentieth century.
Michael
Ah Bo Bo!! Interesting little read in parts. Kind of a mash up of short stories. Some more interesting than others. It does give you a bit of insight into voodoo practices. More of a pick and choose run of events than a flowing story. But I can say it kept me interested and I did learn a thing or two. Anyone with a interest in voodoo should get some things of interest from this book. It does deal mostly with Haiti. After reading The Serpent and the Rainbow,(one of my favorite books EVER!) I gain ...more
Leslie
Dec 05, 2015 Leslie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
My feelings while reading this book is that it was fine, in the most middle-of-the-road sense possible. Is it nifty how Hurston blends personal narrative with personal observation with tales she's been told with un-sourced speculations, making a text that is as much an ethnographic object as it is an ethnography? Yes. But that sentence was more interesting to say just now than what this book was to read, for the most part. There are moments when the style is quite impressive; there are moments w ...more
Queen
Mar 13, 2011 Queen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a book filled with culture, blessings, and curses. Tradition and heritage is recited to us so eloquently by the great Zora Neale Hurston about the peoples of Haiti and Jamaica. While I am currently reading this book, I feel such a connection to the culture that Hurston talks about.

Zora Neale Hurston travels to the "dark lands" of Haiti and Jamaica during the 1930's. Hurston reports to her readers about her adventures not as an outsider looking in, but as an insider speaking out. She per
...more
A.E.
Jul 13, 2013 A.E. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'd been meaning to read "Tell My Horse" since I heard about it a few years ago from an acquaintance, and although undoubtedly it has been included on university reading lists for many years and for good reasons, it's definitely not written in a stuffy, academic, jargon-filled style. The author explains each of the Jamaican and Haitian Creole words used and clarifies idiomatic expressions or those that are otherwise unclear to readers. There is quite a bit of commentary regarding the political s ...more
Margaret Langstaff
[posted this on my blog 12/10/11 too]
I stumbled on a little masterpiece the other day, "Tell My Horse" by Zora Neale Hurston, in a rare bookshop. I'd been aware of this title for years (first published in 1938), but had never actually run across a copy. This particular edition (there are others more recent), published by Turtle Island Foundation, Berkeley, CA 1981, caught my attention because of its striking cover of a photograph of a Black man entranced deep within a Voodoo ritual. So I picked
...more
Nicholas Whyte
Sep 01, 2013 Nicholas Whyte rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, poc, xs, 2013, 1308
http://nwhyte.livejournal.com/2161271.html[return][return]very much worth reading. Hurston combines the research instincts of the anthropologist with the communication skills of a born story-teller, and looks in detail at local cult practices, especially regarding the undead, in Jamaica and especially in Haiti. It was especially interesting to reread this the week that Doonesbury reran the plot sequence where Duke becomes a zombie in the service of Baby Doc Duvalier, written fifty years later. W ...more
Tiffany
Mar 27, 2010 Tiffany rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

I liked the book. It took me awhile to get through mostly cause I wanted to really pay attention to what Hurston was trying to bring to the table. It's a collection of spices from Haiti from religious views (Voodoo), to prejudices, folklore, and history. It's obvious Hurston fell in love with Haiti and it shows in this book. It also shows some brutal honesty.

While I enjoyed the book I wouldn't recommend it to a lot of my friends. It's graphic depictions of animal abuse and torture is very hard t
...more
Kakua Shakur
May 20, 2016 Kakua Shakur rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Because of western civilization 's misconstrued thoughts and beliefs of voodoo, the hoi polloi of America believes voodoo is demonic and taboo. However, this book debunks misconceptions about voodoo. Zora is still to this day one of the best prolific writers of her time. I learned everything from balm baths to songs sang in high regards to deities such as Shango and Damballah. I strongly recommend this book if you want to learn anything about Voodoo.
Karen Davis
Aug 02, 2015 Karen Davis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How can one judge a classic by an icon? Hurston graces bus with her insightful commentary based on a short sojourn in Jamaica and Haiti, and leaves us undated, yearning hungrily for what she might have given us had she stayed for a few years. This will be of special interest to ethnographers as eel as to Zora Neale Hurston fans!
Gwyndolyn Morneault
I gave this book three stars. There were parts of this book that were fascinating and informative (mostly Part III which is devoted to Hurston's study of Haitian voodoo), but the remainder of this book was quite boring. I found myself skimming during the political sections more than I would have liked. However, the writing throughout is superb, and despite the less interesting chapters, I am quite happy I read this book. As I said, the section on voodoo is by far the most interesting; The bad ne ...more
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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
...more
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