They were best friends. They were collaborators, literary gadflies, and champions of the common people. They were the leading lights of the Harlem Renaissance. The dramatic story of one of the most influential friendships in literature.
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...