Tag Archives: marjorie kinnan rawlings

Zora and Marjorie: Literary Legends and Friends

From Zora in Florida, edited by Steve Glassman and Kathryn Lee Seidel.
From Zora in Florida, edited by Steve Glassman and Kathryn Lee Seidel. Florida Collection, PS3515 .U789 Z955 1991.

Zora Neale Hurston moved to St. Augustine at the beginning of World War II for a quiet place to write. While in St. Augustine, she taught part-time at the local black college, Florida Normal. She did not get along well with the administrators of the college after she became involved in a dispute between serviceman being trained at the signal corps school at the college and the college president. Zora sent a letter to Walter White, the executive secretary of the NAACP in November 1942, telling him she thought the soldiers were living in inadequate living quarters and blamed him for putting pressure on Florida Normal to allow the government  the use of the school when Fisk, Hampton, and Tuskegee had wanted the training at their schools. Zora did not see the argument settled because she left St. Augustine in early 1943 to move to Daytona Beach where she lived on a houseboat she had purchased.

I have had to go through a long, long, dark tunnel to come out to the light again. But I had the feeling all the time that you believed in me ~Zora Neale Hurston

From Crossing the Creek: The Literary Friendship of Zora Neale Hurston and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.
From Crossing the Creek: The Literary Friendship of Zora Neale Hurston and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.

In 1942, while in St. Augustine, Zora became friends with Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, who lived part-time in St. Augustine, as her husband, Norton Baskin, owned the Castle Warden Hotel located there. Zora’s autobiography Dust Tracks on a Road and Marjorie’s Cross Creek were both published in 1942. Zora invited Marjorie to speak to her class, and in turn, Marjorie invited her to tea at the Castle Warden, a segregated hotel. When writing about Marjorie’s invitation to the hotel in Zora Neale Hurston: A Literary Biography, Robert E. Hemenway says, “Later, realizing what she had done, she gave special orders to the elevator man to take Zora immediately up to the Rawlings residence on the fourth floor. But Zora had lived in the South for a long time; she went in through the kitchen and walked up the stairs. Safe in the apartment she was her usual vibrant self, causing Rawlings to admit to her husband that she had never in her life had such a stimulating visit”.

The 1940’s were a time of personal hardships for both women; they struggled with their writing and experienced health issues and had various other issues. They remained friends through the years, and Zora visited Marjorie’s home Cross Creek.

Our Florida Collection includes books written by them and about them, and we also have theses and dissertations written by Florida State University students on their lives and works.

And without my writing, I am nothing ~Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

Some of my favorite books are right here in Special Collections

Cross Creek
First page of Cross Creek

It is great to work in a place that contains editions of your favorite books.   I love Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings books and especially Cross Creek, which was published in 1942 and is an autobiographical account of her life in rural North Central Florida.

Cross Creek Cookery was published in 1942.  Rawlings was a wonderful cook, using fresh dairy products from her cow, Dora, vegetables from her garden, and citrus from her grove.  She was known for her dinner parties and entertained famous people at Cross Creek, including Robert Frost.  We have a signed copy of this book.

Rawlings also wrote The Yearling, which was published in 1938 and earned her the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1939.  While shifting in the Florida collection,  I came across an Armed Services Edition in paperback published in 1938, which is printed in two columns on each page.  We also have a signed copy of The Yearling,  School Edition, published in 1941.

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
From signed edition of The Yearling, School Edition

Another favorite book of mine is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee published in 1960.  We have a first edition advanced reader’s copy of this book with an interesting cover that we have used in our Banned Books exhibits.  This book has been banned due to its racial themes.

To Kill a Mockingbird
Cover of first edition, advanced reader's copy

For me, Cross Creek and To Kill a Mockingbird are books that gave me a feeling of a time and place and stayed with me long after I finished reading them.  I have read Cross Creek a few times and the others only once, but I feel certain that I will read them all again in the future.  If you enjoy cooking and reading books about old Florida and the South like I do,  I highly recommend these books.