Chief among the book’s strengths is that it does not shy away from pointing out... contradictions in the relationship at its heart. While that eventually reached an explosive end, Hurston and Hughes shared many years of peaceful and rewarding friendship. The book presents several possible explanations for their falling-out ... At key moments throughout the book, Taylor takes care to remind his readers that although both writers were pioneers who brought blackness into the literary canon, they simultaneously contributed to the adoption of negative stereotypes about African-Americans ... the greatest feat of Zora and Langston perhaps lies in Taylor’s loving yet evenhanded portraits of both figures. There are times when Taylor tries to be too balanced ... None of these minor flaws detract from the book’s overall achievement. It is a highly readable account of one of the most compelling and consequential relationships in black literary history, and the time is ripe for this story to reach a new generation of readers.
Taylor is scrupulous about dates and correspondence between the players. At times, he overreaches. His comparing Hughes’s trajectory to Bob Dylan’s is one example of an idea that feels overblown and out of place. He is also tone-deaf on the subject of sexism in the 1930s, drawing few conclusions about Zora’s death in obscurity and Langston’s lifelong fame. Otherwise, this a complete pleasure to read.
Reading Yuval Taylor's new book, Zora and Langston, may be the next best experience [to riding in a car with the two figures]. Writing in a vivid anecdotal style, Taylor's book carries readers along on the giddy, and ultimately, very bumpy ride that was Hurston and Hughes' friendship ... Taylor dives in with gusto, describing the delights of 1920s Harlem...
... compelling, concise and scrupulously researched ... In this wonderful book, Mr. Taylor is conscientious occasionally to the point of distraction. So careful is he about things he doesn’t know for sure that one page talks about what Hughes and Hurston 'probably,' 'probably,' 'perhaps,' 'perhaps,' and 'possibl[y]' did together in the South. One wishes the author had applied a bit more of that speculation to the heart of his subjects’ friendship—to a theory of why these two people, so different in some ways, were so drawn to each other. Still, he provides ample evidence that they were.
Another book about Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and the Harlem Renaissance is much like watching the film Casablanca again. One knows the ending but is always happy just waiting for it ... Yuval Taylor’s Zora and Langston is much like an old map trying to find a new world ... He draws upon unpublished papers and interviews. A considerable amount of his writing is dependent on books already written. This at times creates a borrowed term paper or thesis quality ... Taylor’s writing is still enjoyable and people new to the careers of the two African American writers will feel comfortable and curious ... Zora and Langston provides a comprehensive overview of the literary disagreement that over the years puzzled scholars ... intriguing, funny, and filled with much speculation.
Fascinating in their own rights as major literary figures, Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston are also fascinating for their complicated relationship, which ended in a spectacular clash ... Taylor has created an intimate portrait of two luminaries of American literature against a backdrop of the cultural, political, and economic forces that influenced them.
Taylor provides so much background for Hughes and Hurston as individuals that the details of their friendship sometimes get lost. However, one does not need to know much about the pair in order to enjoy this account, which is likely to appeal to their fans who have not read comprehensive biographies of either author.
Highly readable and informative ... The book offers an overlong and needlessly detailed look at the complicated fight over the pair’s coauthored play Mule-Bone, which ended their friendship. Nevertheless, Taylor paints a sympathetic but realistic portrait of these two complicated artists and convincingly shows that, together, they changed the course of African-American literature, as the 'first great American writers who implicitly claimed that their work was purely black.'