A Diverse Picture Book that honors Zora Neale Hurston | Zora's Garden

A Diverse Picture Book that honors Zora Neale Hurston | Zora’s Garden

Guest post by Rae Chesny

Not nearly enough people in this world are aware of who Zora Neale Hurston was. Zora was an American author, anthropologist, and filmmaker. She portrayed racial struggles in the early-1900s American South and published research on hoodoos. The most popular of her four novels is Their Eyes Were Watching God, published in 1937.

Zora Neale Hurston was so many things, but among them is her status as one of the most prolific literary figures of all time. Born January 7, 1891, in the deep south, there seemed to be little opportunity for Zora to become a celebrated writer or trained anthropologist. And yet, Zora did both with flare, charm, and zeal that sealed her place in the hearts and minds of many generations long after she wrote her last words. I am just one of them.

But here’s a secret. I didn’t read Their Eyes Were Watching God when it was assigned in my high school English class. However, nearly a decade later, Zora seemed to be waiting patiently to capture my heart. In the Winter of 2018, I was invited to do a Black History Presentation at Michigan State University on poet Langston Hughes. But as I did my research, I felt no personal connection to Langston. Zora, who had been Langston’s best friend during the Harlem Renaissance, was another story. So, Zora quickly became the sole subject of my future presentations while serving as the biggest inspiration for my dreams.

In 2022, I would receive the honor of a lifetime. The Florida Humanities Council awarded a grant to the library in Zora’s hometown to feature me as the Zora Neale Hurston Scholar for the entire series. The series marked the beginning of the rest of my life as a Zora Neale Hurston Scholar and, more affectionately, The Zora Girl.

My work at The Zora Girl is living work. It is continually expanding and deepening. I have always wanted to shine a light on how Zora championed children throughout her life. She told them stories and encouraged them to “jump at de sun” like her mother did for her. I wanted to honor Zora’s roots as a storyteller, her love of gardening, and her mom. So, I wrote Zora’s Garden. I am so excited for children and Zora Neale Hurston lovers everywhere to enjoy the story and get to know the real Zora through the pages of Zora’s Garden.

Zora’s Garden is:
🌻A heartfelt blend of fact and fiction
🌻About literary great Zora Neale Hurston as a child
🌻An invitation for children to become storytellers themselves
🌻 A celebration of Black heritage and language

About The Author

Rae Chesny’s book honors Zora Neale Hurston by incorporating the perfect mix of fact and fiction. It tells the story of Zora, as a young girl, who works with her mother, Lucy, to find the ideal way to tell stories and grow gardens. Zora’s Garden: Scholar Reimagines Zora Neale Hurston as a Children’s Book Character. Learn more HERE.

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