Zora Neale Hurston and a History of Southern Life

By Tiffany Ruby Patterson | Go to book overview

4

Sex and Color in
Eatonville, Florida

In the world of [Hurston's] novels, history lies in per-
sistence in the memory, in lost hidden places that wait
to be found and to be known for what they are. Such
history is barely accessible, the shell of it is only frailly
held together, it will be loseable again. But the continu-
ity is there.

—Eudora Welty, “The House of Willa Cather”1

IN THE WORKS of Zora Neale Hurston, as in those of Willa Cather, history lies not in official proclamations or authorized texts but “in lost hidden places that wait to be found.” “Barely accessible” to our own understandings, “frailly held together” by the shell of their own cultural logic, these places are sustained by the persistent memories of their inhabitants. Our task as careful readers is to enter these places with an open mind and a willingness to let go of our most cherished presuppositions. Only then can we attend to the memories that resound through these places and know them “for what they are.” This strategy is of great importance for those of us concerned with retrieving histories and recovering lives that have been consigned to the margins of our individual and national consciousness. In her brilliant essay on the politics of memory, Karen Fields argues that while memories can sometimes fail as representations of unvarnished truth, they can also succeed as the basis for “social order” and, in the case of

-90-

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Zora Neale Hurston and a History of Southern Life
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Prologue 1
  • Introduction - Rootedness—the History of Private Life 5
  • 1: Reconstructing Past Presents 19
  • 2: Portraits of the South: Zora Neale Hurston's Politics of Place 32
  • 3: A Place Between Home and Horror 50
  • 4: Sex and Color in Eatonville, Florida 90
  • 5: A Transient World of Labor 128
  • 6: Patronage: Anatomy of a Predicament 159
  • Epilogue 183
  • Notes 185
  • Index 217
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