Moses, Man of the Mountain by Zora Neale Hurston

I didn’t much enjoy Their Eyes Were Watching God, to be honest.  It has been so long since I read it, though, that I can’t remember why. In any case, I didn’t ever expect to read another work by Zora Neale Hurston. But when I ran across Moses, Man of the Mountain, the summary was so intriguing to me that I decided to give it a go.

A reimagining of the Book of Exodus, told from an African-American perspective.

Hurston, having travelled the American South and the Caribbean as an anthropologist, uses the knowledge gained by those experiences to recast the Book of Exodus from a black American perspective. Moses, long a hero of black folklore and song is now the black hero of the Exodus story, the emancipator of slaves. The plagues, the signs, the mighty works are fruits of his righteousness but also his knowledge of hoodoo.  And freeing the slaves was just the first of his tasks, for he then has to form them into a new nation, give them a new identity, and free them from a slave mindset.

Beyond providing a deeper understanding of Exodus, Hurston challenges the reader to examine their own role in society. For if the Hebrews are to be associated with the black American slaves, then white Americans, largely Christian and so used to identifying with the Hebrews themselves, must realize they have more in common with the Egyptians.  Moreover, the book was published in 1939 amidst Jewish persecution in Europe, drawing an obvious parallel between Pharoah and Hitler.

The book is not heavy though – it is entertaining, even humorous. A real delight. And when I finished, I went back for more. I immediately checked out Hurston’s Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica.

– Review by Scott, Main Library