...a revelation not just in its celebration of Hurston’s lesser-known efforts as a writer of short stories but also in the subjects and settings that it takes on ... Hurston’s stories do not merely document black experience in the early 20th century; they testify to larger truths about black life ... tender and wry ... Fans and scholars of Hurston’s work and the uninitiated alike will find many delights in these complex, thoughtful and wickedly funny portraits of black lives and communities ... this book is a significant testament to the enduring resonance of black women’s writing.
...helps illuminate Hurston’s path to iconic status. Its 21 stories are presented in the order in which she composed them. As a result, readers can note the progression from earnest 'apprentice' works and experiments with form to the polished brilliance of her best-known stories ... In many of the stories in this collection, Hurston’s men and women confront...challenges while also trying and failing at love, then trying again ... Hurston is equally insistent on displaying the bruised, bloody underside of romantic misadventure ... Hurston’s willingness to show warts and wounds ran counter to black bourgeois sensitivities about revealing dirty laundry in public. Against the backdrop of Harlem Renaissance bigwigs calling for positive depictions of high-achieving Negroes, Hurston unpacked the lives of everyday black people doing everyday things ... Add her matchless powers of observation, exemplary fidelity to idiomatic speech and irresistible engagement with folklore, and the outcome is a collection of value to more than Hurston completists. Any addition to her awe-inspiring oeuvre should be met with open arms.
The splendid stories that editor Genevieve West has gathered, written between 1921 and 1937...demonstrate the author’s double vision. They combine the warmth and affection of an insider with the documentary rigor—and ironic amusement—of a neutral observer. In form, the stories are hardly groundbreaking: slices-of-life in Eatonville and Harlem or dramas involving low-down men who either are reformed by good-hearted women or meet a fitting comeuppance. But each is a showcase for a remarkably vital dialect ... This whole collection is, in one character’s words, 'big as life an’ brassy as tacks.'
To encapsulate the places, issues and psychological outcroppings of Hurston’s work is nearly impossible. She deftly, often hilariously, used and parodied Biblical structures and language ... Seen in the light of the current era, Hurston’s work might seem to some a bit dated and possibly 'incorrect,' yet it was her culture, home folks and city acquaintances --- and her brilliant writing bringing it all unashamedly to the minds of readers from a variety of different backgrounds. She obstinately refused to paint blacks as consistently pitiful or downtrodden, even as she recognized their deprivations ... Hurston adapted to the flow of the Harlem Renaissance but was capable of going against the tide as and when it suited her literary purpose ... Those who have read Hurston’s stories before will find rereading them, along with some new gems, to be time well spent ... a chance to learn, laugh and long for more.
...the hallmarks of Hurston’s distinctive writing are on full display: her use of rural black dialect, the wickedly sly humor she finds in day-to-day life, the folkloric underpinnings of her many tales. The world Hurston re-creates is a circumscribed African American world, where white characters are relegated to the sidelines and rarely figure into the consequences of plot, if they appear at all. The agency that Hurston affords her community is one of the defining delights of her art, which explores identity, class and gender within the African American experience ... As with any collection of stories, quality varies greatly, but these narratives comprise a rich tapestry of Hurston’s matchless vision and talent. After this period as a short story writer, Hurston mostly turned her attention to novels and to the indelible folklore collections she assembled. These would prove the bedrock of her literary reputation, but these early stories are also a welcome and illuminating component of her legacy.
... apprentice efforts to mature small masterpieces ... As ever with Hurston, it’s the range that impresses. Jostling in these handsomely edited pages are tales that read like magical-realist folklore, alongside miniature epics conjuring 1920s Harlem in the style of the King James Bible...as well as poignant portrayals of Florida life, so evocative you can smell the jasmine ... Hurston’s matchless ear for the rhythms and cadence of African-American speech (honed during her anthropological work) animates these tales; so too does her sly way with a moral ... Above all, it’s Hurston’s attentiveness to female figures that stays with you.
In Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick, a new collection of Hurston’s stories (including eight Harlem-set stories found in the archives of periodicals from the 1920s and 30s that were since long forgotten), some of the best of [Hurston's] defiant work is on display. With the careful, and respectful, examination of a scholar, she celebrates the diversity and dynamism of the Black vernacular of her time, how its rhythms and phrases differ between the northeastern U.S. and the South, between social classes and over generations ... Reading Hurston’s writings that captured the culture, folklore and mythologies of Black folk, I saw Blackness without the admonishing white gaze and understood for the first time that I had a culture, not just behaviors and 'bad English' that needed to be corrected.
All of these 21 stories are enlivened by the author’s wickedly funny, sprightly dialogue ... the editor of Hitting a Straight Lick… has wisely chosen not to tamper with grammatical idiosyncrasies or the Florida vernacular of Houston’s home town, Eatonville, giving an edge to the tales that whistle and sing ... Though there are no white characters, Hurston subtly illuminates the self-loathing and deference to whites that pervades black communities ... On literary and ethnographic expeditions, Hurston packed a pistol along with her notepads. These stories share that same wild spirit – unnerving at times, they are always a thrill.
... the fiction writer and the social scientist complement each other ... Some [stories] are touching, some are dark, many are full of rollicking humor. Together, they give readers a window into Hurston’s development as a writer and into how her education shaped her fiction ... Hurston subverts white attitudes toward black people by simply ignoring them ... To contemporary readers, that dialogue might seem stereotypical or even offensive, but Hurston, in anthropologist mode, wanted to capture the flavor of language ... In the dialogue and everyplace else, there is plenty of music and magic in these stories ... Hurston is brilliant at playing scriptural style against vernacular.
Throughout, Hurston draws insightful and humorous contrasts between southern and northern cultures, small-town and big-city life, and the ties and disconnects between country and urban folk. With biting wit, Hurston gets to the heart of the human condition, including racism, sexism, and classism, through the circuitous path of her characters, that is, the straight lick with a crooked stick ... Kicked off with a foreword by Tayari Jones, Hurston’s rediscovered stories will electrify book media and draw in readers.
This arresting collection from Hurston...includes eight previously unpublished works ... Hurston ingeniously uses the cadence of her characters’ speech to denote regionalism and class—there’s a marked difference between how her Eatonville characters speak and how her Harlem characters speak. Arranged chronologically, the collection offers an illuminating and delightful study of a canonical writer finding her rhythm.