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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

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  1,323 Ratings  ·  93 Reviews
A firsthand 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 experience 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 auth ...more
Paperback, 311 pages
Published February 28th 1990 by HarperCollins (first published 1938)
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(showing 1-30)
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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
dianne
Feb 11, 2012 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
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
Scott
Mar 31, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Marsha
Oct 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Dusty
Jan 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2012
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
Humphrey
Dec 05, 2015 rated it it was ok
My feeling while reading this book was 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
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
Morgan
May 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
This is the type of book you'd probably never see me read if it was written by an author I didn't know. I love Zora Neale Hurston. This isn't her best book, but it's one that caught my interest. The topic of voodoo interested me enough to make this my second book by her. Plus, when I was in elementary school I had to do a report on Haiti, so I have some interest in that country as well. Luckily, I found this book not only entertaining, but learned a few things too.

Tell My Horse is about voodoo c
...more
Katie
Mar 16, 2009 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
Cheri
Sep 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I initially bought this book over twenty years ago, made it halfway, and then let it sit on a shelf. Finally, many years later, I dusted it off and started anew. Sometimes age makes something much more accessible.

This book is fascinating. It feels near and close, like I'm sitting in a room listening to Zora talk. So many details that much nonfiction lacks. This book feels real, human, experiential. I have dozens of passages marked for further contemplation.

This book fed my imagination.
Maki
Jan 31, 2015 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
Kit Perriman
Oct 08, 2015 rated it liked it
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
Gwyndolyn Morneault
Oct 07, 2014 rated it liked it
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
scott noble
Jan 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Judah
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
Drew Hoffman
Mar 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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.
Seth
May 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Courtney
Feb 19, 2007 rated it really liked it
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.
Zach
Jan 03, 2009 rated it liked it
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.
David Bales
Nov 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011
An outstanding and thorough first-hand book of research about the history and culture of Jamaica and Haiti; gives a great background on Haitian history, especially, and details the unique Haitian interpretation of Voodoo.
Erica
Sep 03, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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.
Karen
Interesting travelogue and expose of voodooism in Jamaica and Haiti.
Lindsay
I am super fascinated by Hurston's anthropological work, and her treatment of the voodoo and politics of Haiti and Jamaica was terrific...but...I think the delivery was difficult for me. I loved it when her wit shone through, but there's a lot of "this happened, then this, then this," which made me doze off or read for pages without actually reading and then I had to back up. And not having a working knowledge of Haiti's history, I had a hard time following the often non-linear addressing of tha ...more
Aliza
May 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was interested in reading this because of the voodoo aspect, but Hurston was also an anthropologist and the most intriguing parts were actually the ethnographic details about life in the Caribbean in the 1930s: the local rituals around weddings and funerals, grappling with the social and cultural legacy of colonialism, and how to interpret an uneven history of revolution and social change in Jamaica and Haiti.
Wendy
Jun 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Engaging, respectful, written in such fluid prose -- and what a fascinating (/occasionally frightening) subject. Zombies, I'm looking at you here.
Leslie Cook
Sep 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Startling, vivid, informative, and sometimes disturbing. A book I think will stick with me long after today.
Marie
May 14, 2017 rated it liked it
Informative and entertaining--Hurston had such an elegant and simple style, and could really create a memorable image.
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
A.E.
May 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
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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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