Very Smart Brothas x Mahogany Books Monthly Book Club: Zora and Langston by Yuval Taylor

Image: Zora and Langston by Yuval Taylor (W.W. Norton & Company)

Since November 2018, VSB has teamed with Mahogany Books, an online and brick-and-mortar, black-owned bookstore located in Washington, D.C., to do a monthly book club. On the first Friday of each month, we meet in the bookstore and discuss the book we read for the month in a very casual, entertaining and often enlightening manner.

Here is a list of the books we’ve read so far:

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin; Well-Read Black Girl Anthology, edited by Glory Edim; Heavy by Kiese Laymon; All About Love by bell hooks; Heads of the Colored People by Nafissa Thompson-Spires; She Begat This: 20 Years of the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill by Joan Morgan; and What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker by Damon Young.

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Well, I’d like to get us more involved in the book club discussions. Along with the actual in-store discussion, I think we should also do one on the VSB site. Basically, at the beginning of each month, we’ll announce the book here (along with our social media) and then on the first Friday, we’ll do an open thread here on VSB, so folks can discuss the book if they so choose.

With that said, the book for May is Yuval Taylor’s Zora and Langston. Here is the book synopsis from the publisher:

Zora and Langston is the dramatic and moving story of one of the most influential friendships in literature.

They were best friends. They were collaborators, literary gadflies, and champions of the common people. They were the leading lights of the Harlem Renaissance. Zora Neale Hurston, the author of Their Eyes Were Watching God, and Langston Hughes, the author of “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” and “Let America Be America Again,” first met in 1925, at a great gathering of black and white literati, and they fascinated each other. They traveled together in Hurston’s dilapidated car through the rural South collecting folklore, worked on the play Mule Bone, and wrote scores of loving letters. They even had the same patron: Charlotte Osgood Mason, a wealthy white woman who insisted on being called “Godmother.”

Paying them lavishly while trying to control their work, Mason may have been the spark for their bitter and passionate falling-out. Was the split inevitable when Hughes decided to be financially independent of his patron? Was Hurston jealous of the young woman employed as their typist? Or was the rupture over the authorship of Mule Bone? Yuval Taylor answers these questions while illuminating Hurston’s and Hughes’s lives, work, competitiveness, and ambition, uncovering little-known details.

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So pick up a copy of the book; it’s available at all booksellers (here’s the link from Mahogany Books). Give it a read and meet us back here on Friday, June 7. If you’re in Washington, D.C., come check us out on June 7 from 6-8 p.m., at Mahogany Books, 1231 Good Hope Road SE. We’ll also livestream the convo via VSB’s Facebook page.

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About the author

Panama Jackson

Panama Jackson is the Senior Editor of Very Smart Brothas. He's pretty fly for a light guy. You can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking all her brown liquors.