One of our recommended books is Zora and Me: The Summoner by Victoria Bond

ZORA AND ME: THE SUMMONER


In the finale to the acclaimed trilogy, upheaval in Zora Neale Hurston’s family and hometown persuade her to leave childhood behind and find her destiny beyond Eatonville.

For Carrie and her best friend, Zora, Eatonville—America’s first incorporated Black township—has been an idyllic place to live out their childhoods. But when a lynch mob crosses the town’s border to pursue a fugitive and a grave robbery resuscitates the ugly sins of the past, the safe ground beneath them seems to shift. Not only has Zora’s own father—the showboating preacher John Hurston—decided to run against the town’s trusted mayor,

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In the finale to the acclaimed trilogy, upheaval in Zora Neale Hurston’s family and hometown persuade her to leave childhood behind and find her destiny beyond Eatonville.

For Carrie and her best friend, Zora, Eatonville—America’s first incorporated Black township—has been an idyllic place to live out their childhoods. But when a lynch mob crosses the town’s border to pursue a fugitive and a grave robbery resuscitates the ugly sins of the past, the safe ground beneath them seems to shift. Not only has Zora’s own father—the showboating preacher John Hurston—decided to run against the town’s trusted mayor, but there are other unsettling things afoot, including a heartbreaking family loss, a friend’s sudden illness, and the suggestion of voodoo and zombie-ism in the air, which a curious and grieving Zora becomes all too willing to entertain.

In this fictionalized tale, award-winning author Victoria Bond explores the end of childhood and the bittersweet goodbye to Eatonville by preeminent author Zora Neale Hurston (1891–1960). In so doing, she brings to a satisfying conclusion the story begun in the award-winning Zora and Me and its sequel, Zora and Me: The Cursed Ground, sparking inquisitive readers to explore Hurston’s own seminal work.

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  • Candlewick Press
  • Hardcover
  • October 2020
  • 256 Pages
  • 9780763642990

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$17.99

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About Victoria Bond

Victoria Bond is the author of Zora and Me: The SummonerVictoria Bond is the coauthor, with T. R. Simon, of the John Steptoe New Talent Author Award winner Zora and Me. She holds an MFA in creative writing and is a lecturer at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York. Victoria Bond lives in New Jersey with her family.

Praise

“In the third and final volume of Zora and Me, readers are treated to a lustrous look at several facets of the anthropologist, folklorist, and novelist Zora Neale Hurston. . . . I sing the praises of what Victoria Bond has imagined and crafted here, both in deference to my aunt and as a way of honoring Zora’s legacy.” —Lucy Hurston, niece of Zora Neale Hurston

“Bond does the real-life storyteller Hurston proud, weaving an absorbing tale of the everyday horrors Black people faced in the South at the turn of the 20th century, even within the bounds of communities such as Eatonville. Both fans of and newcomers to the award-winning Zora and Me series will thoroughly enjoy this thrilling conclusion…A sweet, lyrical, finely crafted mystery and a testament to the deep bonds of friendship.—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“In the final installment of the Zora and Me trilogy, readers return to life in Eatonville with 14-year-olds Carrie, Zora, and Teddy…Through lush, descriptive language, readers see the trio wrestle with fear, grief, relationships, changing family dynamics, and of course, racism at the turn of the 20th century. With short chapters, Bond ushers readers through this well-crafted historical novel with hints of mystery. Readers who are unfamiliar with the first two novels in the series will miss some of the allusions to earlier events, though the book could stand alone. However, the full character arcs unfold beautifully over the course of the trilogy, one that has a place in any school library.” —School Library Journal (starred review)

Discussion Questions

1. Think about the previous two Zora and Me novels and describe Carrie. How does Carrie view Eatonville and Zora? What are Carrie’s words of wisdom to her granddaughter at the beginning of the text? Based upon the letter, what are potential themes in this story?

2. In chapter one, what does the reader learn about Terrace Side? Who is chasing after him? Why? How do the characters feel about Terrace? Specifically, the white law man? Joe Clarke? Carrie’s mother? Mr. Baker?

3. After the lynch mob leaves Carrie’s home in chapter two, she says, “Finally, Mama and I collapsed and wept, clinging to each other as if to rafts in a flood” (page 15). What does this figurative language suggest about the encounter and how they feel? What does it mean when Carrie states that Terrace Side “delivered . . . a near-catastrophe” in her home (page 15)? What could have occurred during the encounter?

4. Mr. Cools asks, “Do I have a history? Well, my history is why I came here to Eatonville. I came here to escape my history. And you can be sure that’s why Terrace Side came here, too. He probably thought this place could erase his history, swallow it whole, and let him start over. Instead, Terrace’s history ate him alive. . . . Because no matter how big Eatonville is or gets, history is bigger; it will finish her. It sure will” (page 24). Why is a person’s or place’s history important? Do you agree that history can destroy someone or something? What history might destroy Eatonville? Do you think the town expansion is a good idea? Why?

5. In chapter five, Zora states, “With just a few looks, that East fellow practically emptied Sarah’s head of everything that was in it. As for Fanny, she deserves more from her life than a husband more in love with his car than with her!” (page 37). How does Zora view marriage? What marital issues bother her? Why? How does her view compare with other young women in the novel, such as Sarah and Carrie?

6. Describe the relationship that Carrie, Zora, and Teddy have. How has their relationship evolved across the three novels as they’ve grown up? How are Carrie’s and Zora’s views of care and marriage different? What does Zora mean when she says to Teddy, “What you’re not acknowledging or aware of is that growing up means something different for me and Carrie than it does for you” (page 57)? Specifically, what does growing up mean for Zora and Carrie? What does growing up mean for Teddy?

7. In chapter seven, the author writes, “John Hurston and Joe Clarke were men linked by historical circumstance, men who chose to live in the same place for the same reasons: a conviction that black people have the right to live freely and to own their own things. Other than that, there was no personal tie” (page 53). How are Joe Hurston and Mr. Clarke influential residents of Eatonville? What are ways that the men are similar? Different? How do they each respond to issues that occur within the town?

8. Throughout the book there is a lot of discussion about horselesses. Which individuals own a horseless? What does a horseless represent for people in Eatonville? In your opinion, does the horseless have a positive or negative impact on the town?

9. Teddy describes the following paradox: “Doctors cut into our bodies, our black bodies, because they don’t consider us people. . . . But then we come to define in their books and manuals what’s human” (page 63). What does this suggest about how society viewed different groups of people in the early 1900s? How might this view impact opportunity, safety, and self-perception?

10. What does the biography at the end of the novel highlight about Zora Neale Hurston’s real life? How do the facts align with the story in The Summoner? Based upon the biography, is there anything you would add to or change about the Zora and Me novels? What more would you like to learn about Zora Neale Hurston?

Excerpt

Chapter One

Mama’s employers, the Brays, had gone on summer vacation to the South Carolina shore. Usually, when the Brays went away, Mama looked after Mrs. Bray’s old aunt, Miss Pitty. But in the summer of 1905, Mama had somehow convinced Mrs. Bray to take the elderly Miss Pitty along with them. It was the very first vacation she had ever been granted in a lifetime of labor. Triumphant, Mama declared her intention to keep right on working full days, but with me. Working with me, working for us, was different.

It’s almost hard to believe now that I was just thirteen when I started taking in laundry from Lake Maitland. A couple days a week, I boiled water in a zinc barrel and dropped tablecloths and sheets in with the lye soap I made. I stirred, I rinsed, I wrung. Then I hung the large white squares on the line alongside our house. On hot days, I stewed in stifling tedium. On windy days, the linens billowed like clouds and the sight gave me pride in my work.

With Mama’s help that summer, I could complete twice the loads in half the time. I was able to earn more, too, with leftover time for relaxing. Instead of unpinning sheets from the line and ironing in the early evening, I could sit beside Mama on our porch swing, cross-stitch, and watch the deepening sky coax out the fi rst stars. That summer, Mama’s oval face glowed with health and peace. I remember feeling the only way you can after spending a perfectly sorted day doing good and honest work beside someone you love: grateful.

On one such evening, the sound of an engine and a small black cloud announced the speedy approach of a horseless carriage. We squinted into the setting sun to make out who it was.

“It’s Mr. Baker,” Mama said. I stood, overjoyed, certain that Teddy would be with him. Teddy hadn’t mentioned dropping by. No matter. Whether he appeared at my door, we met at the Loving Pine, we crossed paths in the forest where there were no paths, or we bumped into each other on Joe Clarke’s porch, where it felt like all paths led, Teddy, in my heart and in my home, was always welcome and always new. Teddy waved from the front seat, beside his father.

The horseless drew very close now. Mr. Baker parked it next to a spiky, squat palm in our yard and killed the engine. There was another surprise! Zora was riding in the back.

“Hello there,” Mr. Baker called, his silver spectacles catching the light. His friendly, routine words were one thing, his tone another. He sounded as if he were trying to keep down a roaring cough, stifle something. Teddy got out of the automobile in a hurry, but Zora still managed to beat him to the dooryard. They were both electric with some sort of news. I couldn’t tell if it was bad news, exciting news, or both.

Mama picked up on it, too, and got straight to the point. “Alan, what’s going on?”

Mr. Baker took off his hat. “A white law man came to Joe Clarke’s today,” he said cheerlessly, “a sheriff from Sanford.”

“What about?” There was dread in her voice.

“There’s a man on the run by the name of Terrace Side,” Mr. Baker said. “This white sheriff says this Mr. Side escaped from a chain gang stationed in Georgia, at the border. The authorities suspect the fugitive’s trekking all night and hiding out all day. They even suspect he’s heading to Eatonville, for refuge.”

“Why?” Mama asked. “Does he have people in Eatonville? Ain’t no one here called Side, is there?”

“No, ma’am,” Mr. Baker answered. “But that sheriff thinks Side would come here, counting on the protection of something more formidable than a single colored family: an entire colored town.” Mr. Baker paused. “You know what Joe Clarke told that white man to his face?” he asked, a small grim smile on his lips. “He said, Eatonville doesn’t harbor murderers, black or white.”

“That’s just what Mr. Clarke told him,” Teddy said, awe and respect in his voice and expression.

“So is that what this Side fellow got put away for, murder?” Mama was more businesslike than impressed.

“Yes,” Mr. Baker answered, “according to that sheriff.”

“But do we know for sure?” While I reeled, Mama’s common sense raged. “For all we know, he might have knocked over a houseplant in some rich white lady’s house. For all we know, this man may be guilty only of running for his life.”

“We don’t know,” Mr. Baker said, somber and defeated-like. “The one thing we know for sure is that the white law man says anyone who dares to abet the fugitive will be punished, severely. Search parties from Georgia will be coming through, looking for Side’s hideout. So we’ve got to get the word out to everyone, including folks in Blue Bay and Lake Catherine. Keep your door and windows locked, a lantern lit,” Mr. Baker advised. “A house with the lights on won’t look like a good hiding place to either a fugitive or a mob.” Mr. Baker looked at Teddy. “We better get on. We’ve got the ride of Paul Revere ahead of us and still got Zora here to drop home.”

An awkward silence followed.

John Hurston was on the road and had been for weeks, traveling the borders of Alabama, Georgia, and Florida on a preaching tour. Lucy Hurston had been taking to her bed on and off since he’d gone. More than ever, Zora was needed at home.

“This is all precaution,” Mr. Baker tried to reassure. “That’s all, precaution. I’m not sure that Side man is here in Eatonville. The poor man may very well be apprehended even before the search parties get here.” Mr. Baker shook his head. “Heaven help him if he is.”

“I’m no martyr, so I’m not going out looking for Side tonight,” said Mama, “but if Side finds his way to my house seeking refuge, it’s my Christian duty to help him.”

Teddy blinked, rocked back on his heels by my mother’s bravery. Zora got incredibly still. In admiration, I think, for Mama’s Christian virtue. My lips quivered. Mr. Baker pursed his. “Be careful,” he cautioned, “very, very careful.”

“I will,” Mama answered quietly, “by putting my faith in the Lord. Tonight, I’ll be praying for everybody in Eatonville, everybody.”

© 2020 by Victoria Bond