Tracking her rise from humble beginnings to acclaimed author and self-made anthropologist, Peter Bagge‘s Fire!!: The Zora Neale Hurston Story charts the life of the Harlem Renaissance’s most famous woman writer, fast-forwarding through her life in bold technicolor to give us the woman, the myth, the legend: Zora Neale Hurston.
Born in 1891 to former slaves in Alabama, Hurston moved with her family to Eatonville, Florida — the setting of her famous novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God — when she was still very young. A precocious, outspoken, and hotheaded child, she suffered many setbacks in young adulthood, which prompted her to shave a decade off of her age in order to attend a Baltimore high school. In 1928 and pushing 40, Hurston graduated from college with more than a few literary merits under her belt.
Fire!! captures the complex place Hurston occupied in her time. Some black writers and thinkers thought that her representations of poor families in her stories hurt the burgeoning Civil Rights movement, because many of her black characters were gritty, amoral, and downright unlikable. Hurston brushed off concerns and distanced herself from her detractors, intent on remaining true to herself.
Bagge’s graphic novel plows through Hurston’s life at breakneck speed, but the artist provides detailed endnotes, complete with reading suggestions on other figures in Hurston’s story, such as Langston Hughes, Ethel Waters, and Charlotte Osgood Mason. Fire!! ends with a scene English majors and literature buffs will love: the cherry on top of a fun, rompy pie.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for this review.
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Image credit: Peter Bagge and Drawn + Quarterly