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Author shares her family history at conference
Lucy Anne Hurston, niece of the late Zora Neale Hurston, gave the keynote address at Quinnipiac’s eleventh annual women’s creativity conference.
Gloria Holmes, associate professor of education, introduced Hurston at the conference. “No one else besides Lucy can embody the spirit, passion, beauty, wit, intelligence and brilliance of Zora,” Holmes said.
Hurston began her lecture by describing how she first came across Zora Hurston’s writing. Neale Hurston was a groundbreaking writer who helped liberate women in literature in the 1920s.
“I was a crazed reader all my life,” Hurston said. “I spent summers in the Brooklyn Public Library, until one summer I had my library privileges suspended because I would take out three books at a time and only return two.”
Hurston’s father was the younger brother of Zora and she was nine years old the first time she read Zora Hurston’s most famous novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God.”
“I had to read the books out loud; I had to hear the words,” Hurston said. “I wanted to know whose eyes she was talking about.” She remembers that she spent three separate secret occasions in the attic until she finished the book.
“Their Eyes Were Watching God” has recently been made into a movie starring Halle Berry and was aired on Sunday March 6, on ABC.
“I was very concerned about the idea of the book becoming a movie. I wanted to make sure everything that was important to [Zora] was conveyed in the movie,” Hurston said. “The movie didn’t embrace the strength in the novel; the dialect was removed so it was not in its fullness and beauty.”
Jennifer Pescik, a junior English major, was happy to attend the conference to enhance her class on American literature by women of color, taught by Professor Pearl Brown.
“I think conferences like this are important because it gives context to the book,” Pescik said. “It’s insightful to learn more about the author and her inspiration for her work.”
Hurston has recently written a book titled “Speak So You Can Speak Again.”
“I was three years old when Zora died. I was told I met her once,” Hurston said. Hurston wanted her book to put the family perspective together collaboratively for the first time.
“[While doing the research], I was in her space, breathing her air, walking her steps. The book gives Zora a new dimension,” Hurston said. “She had to straddle the line between writing what she wanted and writing what would sell.”
The book includes a CD that contains personal 1930s radio interviews with Zora.
“Zora can speak again, and speak to you,” Hurston explained proudly.
During Hurston’s lecture audience, comprised of mostly women, heard two of Zora Hurston’s interviews.
“I think, in general, whether it’s an English book, a science book or a business book, it’s important to be able to bring speakers like this because it brings images to life,” Anthony Brisson, junior English education major, said.
“She was a feminist before the term was coined,” Hurston said. “Had she been born a generation earlier, her intelligence would not have been recognized. Zora’s parents were children of slaves.”
Many people who attended the lecture enjoyed what Hurston had to say.
“I thought it was really interesting,” Denise Carlson, senior legal studies major, said. “We had just read [“Their Eyes Were Watching God”] for class and it was interesting to see how much of her life was in the book that I wasn’t aware of. I didn’t know any of her background before I came here.”
“Zora herself should have been a character in a folk tale – but authors wouldn’t have dared to create her,” Huston concluded. “She came from an era; a group that rarely succeeded-she was educated and that was her saving grace.”
Zora Hurston, whose work is included in the Canon of American Literature, is now considered to be one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century.