Zora Neale Hurston: Tales of a storyteller -- The author and anthropologist has two new books out about her life

Author Alice Walker (The Color Purple) called her ”a genius of the South.” At an awards dinner in Harlem during the 1920s, she won as many prizes as the poet Langston Hughes. An African-American writer and anthropologist, Zora Neale Hurston traveled extensively in her native South and the West Indies to collect black folklore. Yet despite her literary output — seven books (including her autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Road, and the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God), numerous short stories, plays (Mule Bone), and essays-Hurston died penniless in a Florida welfare hotel in 1960 at the age of 69.

Now young readers can learn about Hurston’s life in two books — Zora Neale Hurston: A Storyteller’s Life by Janelle Yates and Sorrow’s Kitchen by Mary E. Lyons.

”I think the thing that strikes me most about Zora is her courage,” says Yates. ”So much of her early and later life, she really was alone.” The first title in Ward Hill’s Unsung Americans series, Zora will be followed this May by biographies of folk singer Woody Guthrie, Chief Joseph of the Nez Percé Indians, and Dorothy Day, advocate for the poor.

With remarkable candor and exuberance, Hurston wrote about the black men and women she met on her ”wanderings.” Readers will be mesmerized by her story as much as by the remarkable stories she told.