Arts & Culture

Virtual Book Club: ‘Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick’ by Zora Neale Hurston

6:30 pm - 7:30 pm | 11 June 2020
Online | Free

In 2020, the Book Club at the MFA joins in the national celebration of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which granted women in the United States the right to vote. And now we’re doing it virtually, with Zoom. Join us for exciting monthly readings by or about female authors, artists and activists, with discussions centered on topical issues and themes universal to all: empowerment, artistic and creative excellence, and the push for equality for all.

This book club is free but registration is required and will be limited to 50 participants. Register by clicking here.

As an anthropologist and writer, Zora Neale Hurston studied black culture, folklore and wove her research in Africa throughout her fictional works, exploring the intersection of anthropology, experiences of black women, religion, and the arts.

Focusing on representing vibrant black life in her works while refraining from advocating for desegregation created strong criticism of her works throughout her career. While subtly incorporating the injustices experienced by African Americans, Hurston did not wish the main themes of her work to advocate for desegregation.

Instead of focusing on the oppression and harmful, racist ideologies ever-present in the 20th century, Hurston created characters in her writing who demonstrated diversity outside of the realms of the dominant culture. Unwilling to assimilate, she continued writing stories of common citizens and African American culture. After graduating from Barnard College with a BA in anthropology, she became a playwright and created productions performed in New York, Chicago, and Florida. Between the mid to late 1930s, Hurston published five works, beginning with her first published work in 1934, Jonah’s Gourd Vine. After being awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship to study in Haiti, Hurston published her most renowned novel in 1937, Their Eyes Were Watching God.

In the later part of her life, Hurston continued her views of maintaining African American traditions through writing essays and articles, but no longer found opportunities to publish novels. After suffering a stroke in 1959 and being moved to a nursing home in Fort Pierce, Hurston died of a heart attack at the age of 69. Unwilling to be submissive and continuing to voice her opinions as a woman of colour, Hurston is remembered and widely acclaimed as a powerful figure of the 20th century.

Hitting A Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick is a collection of 21 Hurston stories, among them eight newly rediscovered Harlem Renaissance tales from the 1920s and 30s, which were recovered from the archives of forgotten periodicals. Each of the 21 stories are enlivened by the author’s wickedly funny, sprightly dialogue, and the editors of the collection have, true to Hurston’s writing, left alone her trademark grammatical idiosyncrasy and Florida vernacular, giving a timeless feel to her work.

This book is available at our Book Club partner Tombolo Books and other retailers.