Fire!! The Zora Neale Hurston Story: In stores today!
Reading an in-flight magazine a few years ago, I came across a profile of Zora Neale Hurston. I knew who she was—we had Peter Bagge's biography Fire!! The Zora Neale Hurston Story scheduled, and I knew she was a writer and quite the character—but I had never read any of her work, and really just knew these few surface details. Reading that profile, my excitement for Peter's book took hold. And the more I read about her, the more impossible it seemed that anyone, even a master like Peter, would be able to do her life justice within the space restrictions of a book. But of course, Peter pulled it off. He's packed all the fascinating, wacky, beautiful, and inspiring details of Zora's life into a comic that shares all those adjectives. With Fire!! and his prior biography, Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story, we see Peter profiling women that defy characterization, and so does Peter in his retelling of them.
From Zora's early life growing up as the fifth kid of eight in a Baptist family in Alabama, to her admittance to Barnard College (where she was the first Black student), to her vital role in the Harlem Renaissance movement, to her later life, Peter doesn't miss a beat. His fascination with Zora stems from a greater fascination with trail-blazing women with large personalities that thrived between the two wars of the twentieth century. The noted folklorist and critically acclaimed novelist fits into that category perhaps better than anyone.
As with Peter's last book, Fire!! includes a detailed notes section, which functions perfectly as a counterpoint to the slapstick drawing of the story itself, and lets readers go all the more deep into Zora's life.
We see Zora, warts and all, flourishing and falling, but ultimately, living a bold and beautiful life, loving herself when she's laughing...and then again when she's looking mean and impressive. Read all her books—we all are over here—but start with Peter's, because knowing her background makes her body of work all the more fascinating.