5 1/4" x 7 1/2"Authors
Victoria Bond, T. R. Simon
Level: 5.3, Points: 5Scholastic Reading Counts
Level: 5.6, Points: 9Lexile
Level: 860LAwards & Honors
Booklist 2011 Top 10 Books for Youth, Black History;
Victoria Bond says, “I came to work on Zora and Me by way of two women. The first is my best friend, Tanya Simon, who had the idea of fictionalizing the life of Zora Neale Hurston for young readers. The second is Zora Neale Hurston herself, whose work and life continues to inspire writers, anthropologists, and intellectuals alike. I read Their Eyes Were Watching God, Hurston’s most celebrated novel, for the first time at nineteen. Part of what motivated me to work on this project was a desire to introduce young readers, especially young girl readers, to a figure as dynamic and intellectually fierce as Zora. I know I would have been better off for the example as an adolescent, and it’s a dream come true presenting an American iconoclast to her next generation of readers.
“Raised by my grandparents in East Orange, New Jersey, ‘generations’ are something I’ve spent my whole life contemplating. I spent the most formative years of my childhood in the same house where my grandfather grew up. It was there that I not only began to imagine stories of my own, but also listened, rapt, to my grandpa recall his own childhood as well as his experiences as a ball player in the Negro League during the 1930s and ’40s. Living in an old house, surrounded by the belongings of dead folks, all to the soundtrack of Grandpa’s ‘people’s history,’ my imagination fell in love with the past.
“Writing about early-twentieth-century African American life is always something I thought I’d do. I just never imagined I’d be lucky enough, or have a friend brilliant enough, to think up a fictional project based on the early life of Zora Neale Hurston.”
T. R. Simon says, “Of the not-plentiful-enough books about the young lives of black children, I have often felt that what is missing the most are stories set in the rural south. With that in mind, we sought to create for young black children a world of outdoor wonder and mystery, the kind of world that captivated me most as a child. I lived for books like Caddie Woodlawn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer—stories in which the young protagonists matched wits with the adult world, the natural world, and the supernatural elements of their imaginations. I loved the wildness of life lived outside of houses and the social conventions of school. I wanted to see what kids would do when only left to their own cunning and ingenuity. I also loved stories about strong girls, girls who flouted dresses and tea parties and instead climbed trees and challenged boys.
“So it was only natural that when we began painting the portrait of a brilliant and daring young girl, the face that stared back was Zora Neale Hurston. And so we dove into her childhood, culling facts and inventing lies to tickle each other and bring to life one of the most iconic figures in African American literary life. We wanted to give young readers today a taste of Zora that would whet their appetites for all her work in the future.”
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