Youth Services Book Review praises FIRE!!

“Fire!! The Zora Neale Hurston Story by Peter Bagge” / Youth Services Book Review / Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA / March 7, 2017

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4.5

What did you like about the book? This fast paced graphic biography of Zora Neale Hurston is really structured like her life: peripatetic, with lots of unusual short chapters! Hurston grew up in a small all-black town in Florida, and was influenced by her father, a popular preacher, and by the tall tales folks would tell at the general store. From her early years, she was a voracious student, even though both high school and college were interrupted by working to make ends meet. When Hurston got to New York in the mid 1920's she began doing field research for the famous anthropologist Franz Boas. She was perhaps the only Black woman writer at the time of the Harlem Renaissance who made her living by writing. Bagge introduces the reader to many of the artists active during this time, and shows their love/hate relationships with Hurston, who for the most part did not share in the left-leaning philosophy of the movement. The episodic structure of the book recognizes Hurston's many friendships, lovers and mentors as they came and went in her life. The charming full color cartoons are reminiscent of early Robert Crumb, with an affectionate humorous feel. Includes extensive notes with photographs in the back matter, and a bibliography. I like that this biography doesn't attempt to airbrush Hurston's many peccadilloes, but presents her in all her eccentric, fascinating glory.

Anything you didn’t like about it? Not a complaint as much as a point of interest: the book does assume some knowledge of Hurston's work.

To whom would you recommend this book?  This graphic novel will interest teens, college students and adults who are studying Hurston's work.

Who should buy this book? High school and public libraries

Where would you shelve it ? Adult graphic biography

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes, it's an interesting biography of a complicated and important black author.

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