Title: Tell My Horse:
Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica
Author: Zora Neale Hurston
Genre: History / Anthropology / Autobiography
Pages: 336
Rating: 3.5

Zora Neale Hurston’s record of her travels in Jamaica and Haiti provides colorful glimpses into the history, daily life, and religion of these nations. The historical sections in the early part of the book skillfully gave a sense of the extreme racism, pervasive corruption, simmering  rage, and explosive violence that accompanied their early history. Unfortunately the arrangement was haphazard and elliptical in the extreme. Unless you are already well-acquainted with Haiti’s history, Google and Wikipedia will be your friend here.

The later part of the book that focuses on voodoo/vodou is fairly fragmentary as well, but no less interesting. Apparently Hurston was a first level initiate (she mentions preparing for her second level, but never directly tells us about her initiation). Her level of credulity seems to vary depending on the passage, but she mostly manages to present it fairly neutrally as “this is what people believe.” While I would tend to agree with the view that the pantheon/loas of Vodou are identical to the demons/evil spirits of the Bible (e.g. Ephesians 6:12), I think it is important to understand people’s beliefs from their own perspective, and this book is helpful in that regard.

Overall, this isn’t a systematic treatment of the topics in the title, but Hurston’s personal experiences and vivid writing make this a worthwhile read.

3 thoughts on “Vivid Glimpses of History & Culture

    1. I think that she was supposed to be conducting fieldwork under a research grant, but it felt like her own personal experiences (and colorful personality) kept pushing their way into what was supposed to be a more scholarly anthropological work. The result was odd but very readable.

      Liked by 1 person

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