Zora Neale Hurston Biographer, Valerie Boyd dies at 58

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Source: D. Millner

Valerie Boyd, widely known for her biography of Zora Neale Hurston titled Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston died on February 18, after a five-year battle with pancreatic cancer. She was 58 years old.

The beloved editor and journalist has risen to prominence in the world of literary writing and publishing The bitter southerner and Pick flowers under the fire, a forthcoming compilation of the detailed diary entries of Pulitzer Prize-winning Alice Walker. Boyd also lent his incredible genius to the soon-to-be-released text, “Bigger Than Bravery: Black Resilience and Reclamation in a Time of Pandemic,” an anthology series based on black resilience and recovery.

The Georgia native spent two decades writing as a journalist and arts editor at The Atlanta Journal-Constitutionthe space where she would focus on her carefully crafted biography of Zora Neale Hurston, a piece that has undoubtedly become one of her greatest literary achievements.

According to The Washington Postit took the esteemed journalist almost 5 years to put together extensive research on Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston. The book, which was published in 2003, covers the “education in the all-black town of Eatonville, Florida, through her literary activity during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and 1930s.” Boyd takes readers on a journey as she masterfully paints the “enlightened adventures complexities and sorrows of Hurston’s extraordinary life.

Boyd already said Magazine in motion in an interview:

The Atlanta native was widely adored by her students and staff at the University of Georgia, where she led the Master of Fine Arts program in non-fiction narrative writing. According to AJC, “The innovative program brings together diverse groups of students with highly experienced writers and editors to tell true and deeply reported stories.”

One of the star author’s students, Martin Padgett, told the publication he was deeply moved by the thought, care and dedication she gave to the students of the course.

“Because I sat in this classroom in this building and Valerie Boyd had orchestrated all these great speakers and all this great hand in translating journalism into long form – I understood that right away. I just figured it out,” Padgett explained. “And then I realized how lucky I was to be in this group.”

Because of Boyd, Padgett wrote “A Night at the Sweet Gum Head: Drag, Drugs, Disco, and Atlanta’s Gay Revolution”, which has been reviewed by reputable publications such as The New York Times and the AJC Decatur Book Festival.

Friends and family were shocked by Boyd’s untimely passing. According to the journalist’s close friend of 30 years, Veta Goler, she rarely spoke about her condition despite having undergone several rounds of chemotherapy and radiotherapy before her death.

“I can’t believe how much she’s done in her short years on the planet,” said Goler, a retired dance history professor from Spelman College and Boyd’s proxy. “But she made it happen for other people as well. She was incredibly generous with her time, with information, with love, with encouragement.

Childhood friend of the famous biographer, Sonya Ross spoke of Boyd’s caring and attentive spirit.

“When you had conversations with Val, she studied you throughout the conversation, or at least you felt studied. She listened carefully to everything you had to say.

Valerie Boyd is survived by her older brother Michael and her niece Kaylisha.

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