Crossing the Creek
The Literary Friendship of Zora Neale Hurston and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
One of the twentieth century's most intriguing and complicated literary friendships was that between Zora Neale Hurston and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. In death, their reputations have reversed, but in the early 1940s Rawlings had already achieved wild success with her best-selling and Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Yearling, while Hurston had published Their Eyes Were Watching God to unfavorable critical reviews.
When they met, both were at the height of their literary powers. Hurston appears to have sought out Rawlings as a writer who could understand her talent and as a potential patron and champion. Rawlings did become an advocate for Hurston, and by all accounts a warm friendship developed between the two. Yet at every turn, Rawlings's own racism and the societal norms of the Jim Crow South loomed on the horizon, until her friendship with Hurston transformed Rawlings's views on the subject and made her an advocate for racial equality.
Anna Lillios's Crossing the Creek is the first book to examine the productive and complex relationship between these two major figures. Is there truth to the story that Hurston offered to work as Rawlings's maid? Why did Rawlings host a tea for Hurston in St. Augustine? In what ways did each write the friendship into their novels? Using interviews with individuals who knew both women, as well as incisive readings of surviving letters, Lillios examines these questions and many others in this remarkable book.
Anna Lillios, associate professor of English at the University of Central Florida, is the editor of the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Journal of Florida Literature. She is the director of the Zora Neale Hurston Electronic Archive as well as executive director and trustee of the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Society.
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Florida Book Award for Florida Nonfiction, Bronze - 2010
"This insightful volume provides a glimpse into a historical era and into the complications of artistry and friendship."
--CHOICE, vol. 48 no.7
Provides intimate insights into Rawlings' struggle with what she discovered to her horror and dismay. A glimpse to a world that many of us either have forgotten or perhaps never knew.
"Well-written and informative, this book is a great read for folklorists.
--Journal of Folklore Research
Carefully constructed and reads easily. Recommended for anyone interested in the life and work of either writer or the evolving consciousness of the American South.
“Presents intriguing material that will serve scholars of both Hurston and Rawlings well.”
“Convincingly argues that Hurston and Rawlings had more in common than readers might assume”
--Southern Literary Journal