Zora Neale Hurston was an influential African-American author who died in 1960 at the age of 69. Zora & Me (2011) is a fictionalized account of her childhood adventures. This sequel, released in 2018, was a long time in coming. If you missed the original story, no problem as this one stands on its own. Be prepared for a gripping tale that will pull hard on your emotions. Thanks to Patricia Tilton at Children’s Books Heal for introducing this book to me last year.ZORA2.jpg

A suggestion before you start: turn to the back of the book and read Zora’s biography and timeline of important events. It gives you even more purpose for what occurs in the The Cursed Ground.

The tale begins in Eatonville, Florida in 1903. Twelve-year-old Carrie narrates and is Zora’s best friend. Together they begin to unravel the mystery behind who attacked Mr. Polk, a mute landowner who lives nearby. Old Lady Bronson comes to help and makes them promise to not tell anyone, especially that Mr. Polk can speak actual words.

Okay, after three chapters I’m hooked. But then comes chapter four and a new story begins, set in a plantation in 1855. Narrated by Lucia, a slave girl, I knew there had to be a connection to the 1903 story. The book continues, going back and forth with alternating sections consisting of a few chapters for each setting.

The melding of the two stories is an amazing piece of literary work. You’ll experience heartbreak at what slaves had to endure and feel sad this ever went on in our country. …slavery was a living death. But through it all is a sense of community and the power formed by those who believe.

One of 2018’s best middle grade reads!


“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. 


  1. The treatment of the slaves is not downplayed, as it shouldn’t. You’ll wince as they are beaten for not obeying, and feel their confusion as to why white people hate them so much.
  2. Zora and Carrie are perfect mates to be sneaking around uncovering answers to what they don’t understand.
  3. A timely read about racial tensions and what causes them. Perfect for a class of sixth graders to discuss and learn.
  4. Not pure historical fiction, but you learn just as much.
  5. The characters, both young and old, are unforgettable. An important read for all races.


self 2_10171013T.R. Simon holds an M.A. in cultural anthropology and is an adjunct lecturer at the City University of New York Publishing Certificate Program where she teaches a course on children’s book publishing. She and her husband live in Westchester County, New York with their daughter, and very cuddly dog.

For much more, visit her Author website

Discussion Guide (From Candlewick Press)

About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...always striving to reach the next peak in my life and career.
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  1. Completely Full Bookshelf says:

    This book sounds both educational and enjoyable! I’m interested to see how the storylines intersect. Thanks so much for the review!

  2. I really love your unique approach to reviewing Zora’s story. I am delighted you loved this gripping story. Thank you for the mention!

  3. Sounds like a great book to read. Glad you liked it so much.

  4. Sue Kooky says:

    Wow, I’m so glad this book doesn’t shy away from the treatment of slaves and I love stories that have two different narratives that are related to each other! It’s like having two different stories in one!

  5. This book sounds amazing. I will have to get a copy. Thanks for telling me about it.

  6. I love the way she weaves the two stories together too. Great review!

  7. Andrea says:

    Wow! This one sounds like an absorbing read!

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