Publishers Weekly Reviews ZORA AND LANGSTON: A Story of Friendship and Betrayal by Yuval Taylor

Publishers Weekly

Taylor (FAKING IT, coauthor), a senior editor at Chicago Review Press, offers a highly readable and informative take on the friendship and subsequent falling-out between two stars of the Harlem Renaissance, Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston. The two met in New York City during Harlem’s cultural heyday and struck up a close friendship as they traveled the South together, where Hurston gathered African-American folklore for a book. They shared a desire to, as Taylor puts it, “get inside the folkways of the African American community and to encompass them in all their variety.” They also shared a bond in being supported financially by the same woman, the wealthy, and white, Charlotte Mason. One of the most bizarre and fascinating aspects of their lives was the intrusion of this highly controlling figure, fixated on the idea that the culture of black Americans was more primitive and pure than that of whites. The book offers an overlong and needlessly detailed look at the complicated fight over the pair’s coauthored play Mule-Bone, which ended their friendship. Nevertheless, Taylor paints a sympathetic but realistic portrait of these two complicated artists and convincingly shows that, together, they changed the course of African-American literature, as the “first great American writers who implicitly claimed that their work was purely black. (Mar.)

Read what The New York Times had to say about the book last weekend: “That’s What Friends Are For: The Complex Literary Friendship Between Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston” by Zinzi Clemmons.