Every Tongue Got to Confess is an extensive volume of African American folklore that Zora Neale Hurston collected on her travels through the Gulf States in the late 1920s.
The bittersweet and often hilarious tales -- which range from longer narratives about God, the Devil, white folk, and mistaken identity to witty one-liners -- reveal attitudes about faith, love, family, slavery, race, and community. Together, this collection of nearly 500 folktales weaves a vibrant tapestry that celebrates African American life in the rural South and represents a major part of Zora Neale Hurston's literary legacy.
"Hurston's deep fascination with story, language, and African American culture inspired her to become a folklorist, anthropologist, novelist, and memoirist in an age when black women were considered second-class citizens at best, and African American literature was segregated from the canon. When she died poor and forgotten in 1960, the lion's share of her papers were misplaced, including nearly 500 of the black folktales she collected while driving solo across the South in the 1920s. Published here for the first time, these rescued folktales are introduced by Carla Kaplan, who explains that Hurston had planned a seven-volume folktale series but was only able to publish two, Mules and Men (1935) and Tell My Horse (1938). In this catch-up collection, it's obvious that Hurston transcribed each tale with great care, intent on preserving both the sound and sense of this unique vernacular oral tradition. In his frank and penetrating foreword, John Edgar Wideman discusses the prickly question of how dialect enforces racial stereotypes, but clearly Hurston sought to capture the "folk voice" of the South out of deep respect for its canny inventiveness, subversive humor, and immeasurable impact on the American character. And what treasures these are--mordantly clever and quintessentially human stories about God and the creation of the black race, the devil, preachers wily and foolish, animals, the battle between the sexes, and slaves who outsmart their masters. Invaluable tales of mischief and wisdom, spirit and hope. Donna Seaman"
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review:
"Although Hurston is better known for her novels, particularly Their Eyes Were Watching God, she might have been prouder of her anthropological field work. In 1927, with the support of Franz Boas, the dean of American anthropologists, Hurston traveled the Deep South collecting stories from black laborers, farmers, craftsmen and idlers. These tales featured a cast of characters made famous in Joel Chandler Harris's bowdlerized Uncle Remus versions, including John (related, no doubt, to High John the Conqueror), Brer Fox and various slaves. But for Hurston these stories were more than entertainments; they represented a utopia created to offset the sometimes unbearable pressures of disenfranchisement: "Brer Fox, Brer Deer, Brer 'Gator, Brer Dawg, Brer Rabbit, Ole Massa and his wife were walking the earth like natural men way back in the days when God himself was on the ground and men could talk with him." Hurston's notes, which somehow got lost, were recently rediscovered in someone else's papers at the Smithsonian. Divided into 15 categories ("Woman Tales," "Neatest Trick Tales," etc.), the stories as she jotted them down range from mere jokes of a few paragraphs to three-page episodes. Many are set "in slavery time," with "massa" portrayed as an often-gulled, but always potentially punitive, presence. There are a variety of "how come" and trickster stories, written in dialect. Acting the part of the good anthropologist, Hurston is scrupulously impersonal, and, as a result, the tales bear few traces of her inimitable voice, unlike Tell My Horse, her classic study of Haitian voodoo. Though this may limit the book's appeal among general readers, it is a boon for Hurston scholars and may, as Kaplan says in her introduction, establish Hurston's importance as an African-American folklorist. (Dec.) Forecast: Hurston's name will ensure this title ample review coverage, and it should do well among lovers of folktales, particularly those curious about Hurston's career in the field. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved"
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
|| New York :Perennial,2002
||1st Perennial ed.
Reprint. Originally published: New York : HarperCollins, 2001.
xxxiv, 279 pages ; 21 cm
Includes bibliographical references.
||9780060934545 (pbk. : alk. paper)
0060934549 (pbk. : alk. paper)