ZORA AND ME: THE CURSED GROUND
2019 Edgar nominee for Best Juvenile MysteryJunior
Library Guild Selection 2018
Kirkus Reviews — Starred Review
The Horn Book — Starred Review
Shelf Awareness — Starred Review
School Library Journal — Starred Review
Beautifully written... The connection between slave times and Zora and Carrie's world unravels slowly and with well-crafted suspense and a
horrifying surprise twist.
—New York Times Book Review
The voices of Zora, Carrie, Lucia, and their families and friends make for powerful, unflinching storytelling, worthy to bear the name of a writer Alice Walker called a "genius" of African-American literature. An extraordinary, richly imagined coming-of-age story about a young Zora Neale Hurston, the long, cruel reach of slavery, and the power of community.
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Simon keeps the plot moving briskly and sustains suspense even as she folds in truly profound, timely, and important themes; and one of the things Zora and Carrie have learned by book’s end is that “history wasn’t something you read in a book. It was everything your life stood on.”
—The Horn Book (starred review)
This stunning sequel to Zora and Me is a fictionalized mystery based on Zora Neale Hurston's childhood and includes a biography of Hurston as well as a timeline of her life. T.R. Simon's writing does elegant justice to the grownup Hurston's genius as a writer as well as to the character she apparently was as a child.
—Shelf Awareness (starred review)
Simon offers keen insight into how the past affects the present, no matter how many years between them.
School Library Journal (Starred Review)
Indeed, this is a powerful story that will stick with readers.
—School Library Connection (recommended)
A powerful fictionalized account of Zora Neale Hurston’s childhood adventures explores the idea of collective memory and the lingering effects of slavery.
“History ain’t in a book, especially when it comes to folks like us. History is in the lives we lived and the stories we tell each other about those lives.”
When Zora Neale Hurston and her best friend, Carrie Brown, discover that the town mute can speak after all, they think they’ve uncovered a big secret. But Mr. Polk’s silence is just one piece of a larger puzzle that stretches back half a century to the tragic story of an enslaved girl named Lucia. As Zora’s curiosity leads a reluctant Carrie deeper into the mystery, the story unfolds through alternating narratives. Lucia’s struggle for freedom resonates through the years, threatening the future of America’s first incorporated black township — the hometown of author Zora Neale Hurston (1891–1960). In a riveting coming-of-age tale, award-winning author T. R. Simon champions the strength of a people to stand up for justice.
New York Times Book Review
“Zora was bold and honest like a bumblebee asking to nectar on springtime flowers, and loud and fearless like a bobcat,” says 12-year-old Carrie Brown, the narrator of the beautifully written ZORA AND ME: THE CURSED GROUND (Candlewick, 250 pp., $16.99; ages 10 and up), by T. R. Simon. In this second book in a promised series that imagines the life of the young Zora Neale Hurston, Zora and her friend Carrie solve a murder in their town of Eatonville, Fla., in the early 1900s. Although Eatonville is the first black incorporated town in America, Zora and Carrie are hardly shielded from the racial violence of the post-Reconstruction era. In “Zora and Me: The Cursed Ground,” the two girls learn about the enslaved history of some of their town’s inhabitants and the ongoing legacy of that bloody bondage.
When Zora and Carrie stumble upon an old slave plantation house in 1903, they can hardly imagine a world where people are treated like property. But then two white men ride into town claiming that the land should never have been incorporated into Eatonville. Zora’s father, who is Eatonville’s mayor, is forced to take a stance. “The past is coming for us, isn’t it?” her mother asks. “White men with lynching ropes will hang us from trees here as easily as they did in Alabama. We were foolish to think that there could ever be a safe place, that we could ever get away.” The land in question holds a dark secret, one told in flashbacks from a healer named Old Lady Bronson that slowly connect the past with the present. The flashbacks vividly depict Old Lady Bronson’s life as a young girl when she was taken from Hispaniola to Florida to work on the plantation. The connection between slave times and Zora and Carrie’s world unravels slowly and with well-crafted suspense and a horrifying surprise twist. “History wasn’t just something you read in a book,” Carrie observes. “It was everything your life stood on. We who thought we were free from the past were still living it out.”
Starred Kirkus Review
A curse, the legacy of slavery, and a fight for justice collide in this fictionalized account of author Zora Neale Hurston’s childhood adventures,
sequel to Simon’s Zora and Me, co-written with Victoria Bond (2010).
Twelve-year-old Zora Neale Hurston is as brave and adventurous as her best friend, Carrie Brown, is cautious. The year is 1903, and the girls live in Eatonville, Florida, the first incorporated all-black town in the U.S. Late one night, during an escapade, the girls discover their friend Mr. Polk injured outside his cabin. Mr. Polk is known to be mute, but to the girls’ surprise, he speaks—though not in English—to Old Lady Bronson, the town conjure woman, when she arrives to tend to his wounds. By night’s end, Zora has made a pact with the conjure woman, and she and Carrie find themselves embroiled in a half-century–old mystery involving an enslaved girl named Lucia. Through alternating chapters, narrated by Carrie in 1903 and Lucia in 1855, Lucia’s story and its connection to Zora and Carrie’s world come to light. Raw depictions of slavery and its aftermath provide important context as the Eatonville community’s resilience is tested in the face of injustice. The voices of Zora, Carrie, Lucia, and their families and friends make for powerful, unflinching storytelling, worthy to bear the name of a writer Alice Walker called a “genius” of African-American literature.
An extraordinary, richly imagined coming-of-age story about a young Zora Neale Hurston, the long, cruel reach of slavery, and the power of community. (biographical note, timeline) (Historical fiction. 10-14)
Starred Horn Book Review
This second novel featuring a young Zora Neale Hurston and her friend Carrie Brown is once again set in the girls’ hometown of Eatonville, Florida, in 1903, less than forty years after the end of the Civil War. A year has passed since the events follower (albeit an appreciative one; Zora “made life in a town no bigger than a teacup feel like it held the whole world”). As the twelve-year-olds are pulled deeper into a mystery involving their tight-knit African American community, the narrative begins to alternate with that of Lucia, a girl enslaved on a Florida plantation in 1855. When the stories begin to merge—the tone shifting from suspenseful to eerie to tragic to downright terrifying—the friends are brought up against some hard truths concerning race and power, hate and love, slavery and freedom. The climactic scene—with a posse of armed white men set on taking by force the “cursed ground” of the book’s subtitle and killing the land’s owner—is heart-stopping; that it ends happily with the villain vanquished, given the realities of Jim Crow America, is not a foregone conclusion. Simon keeps the plot moving briskly and sustains suspense even as she folds in truly profound, timely, and important themes; and one of the things Zora and Carrie have learned by book’s end is that “history wasn’t something you read in a book. It was everything your life stood on.” martha v. parravanoof and narrator Carrie as leader
Starred Shelf Awareness Review
Growing up in 1903 Eatonville, Fla., is idyllic for 12-year-old Zora Neale Hurston and her friend Carrie Brown. Since Eatonville was incorporated as America's first "all-colored" town a few years before they were born, the girls have never known a different life. But their peace is abruptly shattered on the night their friend Mr. Polk, the "town mute," is mysteriously attacked. Suddenly, Eatonville's history begins catching up with its present.
Zora and Me: The Cursed Ground is told in two alternating voices: Carrie's 1903 viewpoint and that of Lucia, a young girl in 1855 who is taken from the Caribbean to Florida, where she is forced into slavery. The two narratives gradually come together, culminating in an explosive scene that exposes Carrie and Zora to the ugliness of slavery's recent history and the racism that still exists all around them. The narrator, adult Carrie, remembers that moment and how they awaited a lynch mob coming to take land from a black landowner: "This was the moment when our color became our curse."
This stunning sequel to Zora and Me is a fictionalized mystery based on Zora Neale Hurston's childhood and includes a biography of Hurston as well as a timeline of her life. T.R. Simon's writing does elegant justice to the grownup Hurston's genius as a writer as well as to the character she apparently was as a child. Readers should be profoundly moved by Carrie and Zora's coming-of-age revelations: "No matter how long I lived," Carrie says, "the hate white folks could have toward us would never make sense to me." And, as the "town conjure woman" says, "Slavery is over, but tonight you saw how it still haunts us." -- Emilie is a freelance editor and writer
Starred School Library Review
Two years have passed since their last adventure in Zora and Me (2010), but the fictionalized Zora Neale Hurston and her best friend Carrie Brown are as curious as ever about the goings-on in their town of Eatonville, FL, the first all-black incorporated town in the United States. When their mute friend and neighbor, Mr. Polk, is the victim of a seemingly senseless attack and speaks to the town’s hoodoo lady, Old Lady Bronson, the friends use their skills and town connections to get to the bottom of the mystery at hand, uncovering a curse that dates back to the time when slavery was legal in the United States. And slavery, to the surprise of Carrie and Zora, wasn’t really that long ago. The story of a city separated by 48 years and a war—1903 Eatonville and 1855 Westin, as Eatonville was formerly known—is told in alternating chapters. Simon offers keen insight into how the past affects the present, no matter how many years between them. VERDICT A worthy purchase for all upper middle grade and middle school collections.–Brittany Drehobl, Morton Grove Public Library, IL
School Library Connection (recommended)
Alternating between Eatonville, Florida in 1903 and Westin plantation in 1855, this is a fictionalized account of the life of Zora Neale Hurston. The plot of the novel centers on Lucia, slave to Prisca, and Zora and Carrie, living 50 years later in the nation’s first all-black incorporated township. Upon discovering horses in distress, Zora and Carrie approach the owner, the town mute, when they suddenly and inexplicably overhear voices talking in a foreign language. After this encounter, Zora and Carrie want to know why. Old Lady Bronson, presumed to be some kind of enchantress, promises them a tale worthy of their silence and cooperation. The story, at times quite violent though always profound, lives up to that promise. Indeed, this is a powerful story that will stick with readers. The novel is followed by a brief biography and timeline of Zora Neale Hurston’s career as an accomplished author. This stirring sequel to Zora and Me (Candlewick 2010) certainly stands on its own. Joel Shoemaker, Director, Illinois Prairie District Public Library, Metamora, Illinois
In 1903, 12-year-old Carrie and her best friend Zora Neale Hurston investigate missing horses and uncover many secrets about their African American town, including that the town mute can actually speak. In an alternative narrative set in 1855, a slave named Lucia recounts the story of her white half-sister’s murder by the plantation owner's son. Set in Eatonville, Florida, and on the plantation that preceded it, the stories (and some characters) eventually converge in an absorbing novel that reinforces the horrors of slavery and the importance of standing up for justice. A sequel to Zora & Me (2010), which Simon coauthored with Victoria Bond, this story pays tribute to writer and anthropologist Hurston and weaves the basics of her life (she grew up in Eatonville, set many of her stories there, and, as an anthropologist, studied hoodoo practices in the Caribbean and American South) into a plausible fiction. Although the plot depends heavily on Carrie and Zora eavesdropping on the adults around them, this makes a satisfying read for historical fiction buffs. — Kay Weisman
Publisher’s Weekly review
In this compelling sequel to Zora and Me (both stories fictionalize the childhood of literary great Zora Neale Hurston), two best friends unearth a town’s secret. In their covert late night wandering, Zora and 12-year-old narrator Carrie discover that their mute friend Mr. Polk speaks, and, in the process, they extract a promise for a story from purported witch Old Lady Bronson. Set in Florida and told in alternating chapters that switch settings between Carrie and Zora’s 1903 African-American town of Eatonville and an 1855 plantation community in the same location, then called Westin, the parallel tale reveals the plight of Lucia, 11, a black orphan who sails from Europe with her friend Prisca and guardian Don Frederico into brutal enslavement. Lucia’s story exerts the stronger pull in much of the novel, until the two worlds collide powerfully to highlight the “unfinished business of slavery” and reveal why the town is cursed ground. The result is a thought-provoking look at racially motivated violence and the enduring wounds of slavery. An included biography offers insight into Hurston’s life and later work. Ages 10–14.