Hurston's Dust Tracks on a Road and Rawling's Cross Creek
After Hurston and Rawlings succeeded in channelling the communal voices of Eatonville and Cross Creek into narratives, they had great difficulty in switching genres from novels to their autobiographies, Dust Tracks on a Road and Cross Creek. Rawlings complains in a 1938 letter to Perkins that the “material is treacherous.” She admits that she does not know how to organize Cross Creek and debates with Perkins how autobiographical she should be. Rawlings wants to write a chronicle but doesn't want the narrative to be “confluent,” nor the content autobiographical. Hurston, in the construction of Dust Tracks on a Road, decides to fictionalize her life story when it suits her purposes and gives herself a birthplace in Eatonville, although census records prove that she was born in Notasulga, Alabama. Rawlings' difficulty in structuring Cross Creek and Hurston's propensity in taking liberties with the truth suggest that both authors were trying to redefine their conception of the self. Identification with their communities had once been liberating, allowing them to escape from the restrictions and definitions of mainstream America, as Nellie McKay notes: “Community identity permits the rejection of historically diminishing images of self [that are] imposed by the dominant culture; it allows marginalized individuals to embrace alternative selves constructed from positive (and more authentic) images of their own creation.” But, now, Hurston and Rawlings were ready to move on to creative work that more accurately embodied their changing selves.
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