Celebrating the One and Only Ms. Zora

Author Zora Neale Hurston (Fotosearch/Archive Photos/Getty Images)
Author Zora Neale Hurston (Fotosearch/Archive Photos/Getty Images)

On Jan. 7 at Clutch magazine, Janelle Harris paid tribute to Zora Neale Hurston on what would have been the writer's 122nd birthday.

We have the Lord to thank for giving us Ms. Zora, but the great Alice Walker to commend for bringing her work out of obscurity and back into widespread appreciation. This month also marks the 35th anniversary of the re-issue of her magnum opus, Their Eyes Were Watching God, after Walker set out on a mission to not only find Hurston's unmarked Florida grave, but reintroduce the public to her masterpiece. Thank goodness. A literary world without Janie Starks, Tea Cake or the familiar-feeling townsfolk of Eatonville would've been suffering from creative robbery and never even known it.

Today, if she would've had her druthers about hurdling those dark, dramatic years at the end of her life, would've been her 122nd birthday. Her actual, factual, honest-to-goodness birthdate has been as creatively interpreted as her work and she was as inventive about her real age as she was with her storylines …

She died after 69 years in the same month she was born, this amazing woman named Zora Neale Hurston. My girl. But her writing is a demonstrative catalog for anyone who needs to know what fierce looks like in print. I like to think her spirit lives in anyone who calls on upon it to make their own words dance and play and sparkle across the page, just trying to get close to that bar she set so high. I know I don't want to even attempt a novel if I don't think it's Zora-worthy, if she wouldn't read the manuscript and push those cheekbones up into a smile. I have a long way to go. A long, dusty road, she might even say.

Happy birthday, Ms. Zora. You rock. You always did.

Read Janelle Harris' entire piece at Clutch magazine.

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