She grew up in America's first all-black incorporated town,
Hurston's schoolteacher mother was an inspiration to her, pushing her to "jump at de sun." After her mother died and her preacher father remarried, she left home at 14, putting herself through school at Morgan Academy in Baltimore and
She arrived in New York in 1925 with $1.50 to her name, yet she still made a splash.
She "dazzled" at a formal literary affair, flinging a red scarf and animated stories to the room. Among those she impressed was author, activist and playwright
Carla Kaplan, author and professor at Wellesley College, told the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday that "Hurston was, in her own terms, 'bodacious' -- bold, pioneering, and always brave about stepping into the public sphere."
Kaplan, author of "Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters," said Hurston "would have loved being celebrated by today's Google Doodle; her email, Facebook and Twitter pages would have been flying."
Hurston wrote short stories, essays and novels. But she struggled for financial security. Most of her books were published during the Depression, and the largest royalty any of Hurston's books earned was $943.75. At one point, she pawned her typewriter for cash.
"Their Eyes Were Watching God," now seen by many as her greatest novel, was published in 1937 to notably negative reaction. At the time, author Richard Wright ("Black Boy," "Native Son") blasted the book. He said it was written to whites, with a "minstrel technique" that made them laugh.
"It's wonderful to see Hurston so widely recognized," Kaplan said, "especially as one of her most constant themes was how similar we all are to one another, not in spite of our differences, but because of them."
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