A powerful fictionalized account of Zora Neale Hurston's childhood adventures explores the idea of collective memory and the lingering effects of slavery.
"History ain't in a book, especially when it comes to folks like us. History is in the lives we lived and the stories we tell each other about those lives."
When Zora Neale Hurston and her best friend, Carrie Brown, discover that the town mute can speak after all, they think they've uncovered a big secret. But Mr. Polk's silence is just one piece of a larger puzzle that stretches back half a century to the tragic story of an enslaved girl named Lucia. As Zora's curiosity leads a reluctant Carrie deeper into the mystery, the story unfolds through alternating narratives. Lucia's struggle for freedom resonates through the years, threatening the future of America's first incorporated black township -- the hometown of author Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960). In a riveting coming-of-age tale, award-winning author T. R. Simon champions the strength of a people to stand up for justice.
Raw depictions of slavery and its aftermath provide important context as the Eatonville community's resilience is tested in the face of injustice. The voices of Zora, Carrie, Lucia, and their families and friends make for powerful, unflinching storytelling, worthy to bear the name of a writer Alice Walker called a "genius" of African-American literature. An extraordinary, richly imagined coming-of-age story about a young Zora Neale Hurston, the long, cruel reach of slavery, and the power of community.
--Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Simon keeps the plot moving briskly and sustains suspense even as she folds in truly profound, timely, and important themes; and one of the things Zora and Carrie have learned by book's end is that "history wasn't something you read in a book. It was everything your life stood on."
--The Horn Book (starred review)
A sequel to Zora & Me (2010), which Simon coauthored with Victoria Bond, this story pays tribute to writer and anthropologist Hurston and weaves the basics of her life (she grew up in Eatonville, set many of her stories there, and, as an anthropologist, studied hoodoo practices in the Caribbean and American South) into a plausible fiction...this makes a satisfying read for historical fiction buffs.
In this compelling sequel to Zora and Me (both stories fictionalize the childhood of literary great Zora Neale Hurston), two best friends unearth a town's secret...Lucia's story exerts the stronger pull in much of the novel, until the two worlds collide powerfully to highlight the "unfinished business of slavery" and reveal why the town is cursed ground. The result is a thought-provoking look at racially motivated violence and the enduring wounds of slavery.
Goose bumps, tears, smiles, and sighs: these were the rewards I took away from this exquisite read. I feel confident that my aunt Zora, the 'Zora of the Cosmos, ' is quite delighted with the literary enchantment of T. R. Simon.
--Lucy Hurston, niece of Zora Neale Hurston and author of Speak, So You Can Speak Again: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston
A stunning work of imagination and a deeply necessary read. Young readers will not only learn about our history of slavery and Jim Crow; they will also ask themselves where they stand in American history. Zora and Me: The Cursed Ground will give rise to rich conversations about the positions we take in the unfinished business of our Civil War.
--Michael Eric Dyson, New York Times best-selling author of Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America