In 1933, when Hurston was a rising star of the Harlem Renaissance and an impoverished drama instructor at Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona, Florida, she showed her story, ‘‘The Gilded Six-Bits,’’ to an English professor there. He liked it so much that he not only read it to his writing class, but took it upon himself to submit it to Story, a well-known literary magazine. Bertram Lippincott, a New York publisher wise to the black folk-art trend, then took it upon himself to write to Hurston, expressing interest in publishing any novel she might be working on. This led Hurston to begin and quickly finish her first novel, Jonah's Gourd Vine. Thus ‘‘The Gilded Six-Bits’’ was pivotal to her professional development as a fiction writer. (She was already on her way to establishing herself in the field of anthropology under the mentorship of notable anthropologist Franz Boas).
Hurston seemed to effortlessly charm and impress white mentors, and these mentors were some of the same people who wrote or influenced early reviews. Her reception in the mainstream American press was by and large very positive, while her black peers tended to be more critical. For example, a 1934 review of Jonah's Gourd Vine written by Martha Greuning for the mainstream New Republic cites Hurston's ‘‘zest and naturalness,’’ calling her an ‘‘insider’’ who ‘‘shares...
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