Dust Tracks on a Road

by Zora Neale Hurston

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Critical Context (Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

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Hurston’s life, told from her own point of view, is a compelling chronicle for young readers. Her independence, her audacious stories, and her flamboyant personality make her life a fascinating tale. This book entertains as it teaches about a young person’s work and ultimate triumph in the literary world. Readers will also be interested to read the story of a woman who has had enormous effect on such contemporary writers as Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, and Toni Cade Bambara. These readers can trace the beginnings of the use of African-American vernacular speech and folk rituals in Hurston’s work and the ways in which her followers have continued in this tradition.

Young readers of Dust Tracks on a Road will be interested to compare Janie, the protagonist of Their Eyes Were Watching God, to Hurston’s image of herself. Like Hurston, Janie is a wanderer and a lover of tales and stories who, although she finds an ideal love and friendship, is ultimately alone in her struggles and triumphs. Hurston’s controversial views on race and society in the essay portion of the book can also open up spirited discussions and invite comparisons to the views of her peers in the Harlem Renaissance. Her stories act as a counterpoint to the Depression-era novels of contemporaries such as Langston Hughes and Richard Wright.

Dust Tracks on a Road portrays a unique personality, a sometimes outrageous woman who had a lasting impact on twentieth century American literature. The book is a valuable educational tool for students of literature, and it offers readers an enjoyable experience as they learn.

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Critical Context (Masterplots II: African American Literature)