Winner of the 2011 Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award from the American Library Association

VICTORIA BOND and T. R. SIMON met ten years ago while working together in publishing and became fast friends. After kicking around the idea of a collaboration for years, the idea of writing a middle-grade novel about Zora Neale Hurston emerged, and both knew they had stumbled into the project of their dreams. Excited and humbled by the opportunity to expose young readers to a seminal figure in twentieth-century American letters, they discovered that Zora’s life as both field anthropologist and writer custom-fit their own backgrounds. T. R. (Tanya) Simon has an MA in anthropology, while Victoria Bond holds an MFA in creative writing.



Zora & me
the cursed ground

Candlewick - September 11, 2018

A powerful fictionalized account of Zora Neale Hurston’s childhood adventures explores the idea of collective memory and the lingering effects of slavery.

“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.

praise for zora & me

Selected for The Children’s Book Council Showcase “Family Heritage”

"Goose bumps, tears, smiles, and sighs: these were the rewards I took away from this exquisite read. I feel confident that my aunt Zora, the ‘Zora of the Cosmos,’ is quite delighted with the literary enchantment of T. R. Simon."—Lucy Hurston, niece of Zora Neale Hurston and author of Speak, So You Can Speak Again: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston

"A stunning work of imagination and a deeply necessary read. Young readers will not only learn about our history of slavery and Jim Crow; they will also ask themselves where they stand in American history. Zora and Me: The Cursed Ground will give rise to rich conversations about the positions we take in the unfinished business of our Civil War."—Michael Eric Dyson, New York Times best-selling author of Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America

"Simon keeps the plot moving briskly and sustains suspense even as she folds in truly profound, timely, and important themes; and one of the things Zora and Carrie have learned by book’s end is that 'history wasn’t something you read in a book. It was everything your life stood on.'"The Horn Book, starred review

"A thought-provoking look at racially motivated violence and the enduring wounds of slavery."Publishers Weekly

"A satisfying read for historical fiction buffs."Booklist

"An extraordinary, richly imagined coming-of-age story about a young Zora Neale Hurston, the long, cruel reach of slavery, and the power of community."Kirkus, starred review

“This stunning sequel to Zora and Me is a fictionalized mystery based on Zora Neale Hurston's childhood and includes a biography of Hurston as well as a timeline of her life. T.R. Simon's writing does elegant justice to the grownup Hurston's genius as a writer as well as to the character she apparently was as a child.”Shelf Awareness, starred review

“Simon offers keen insight into how the past affects the present, no matter how many years between them.”School Library Journal, starred review

“A thoroughly gripping story and a lively portrait of friendship.”Toronto Star




Candlewick Press – October 12, 2010

Endorsed by the Zora Neale Hurston Trust.

Whether she’s telling the truth or stretching it, Zora Neale Hurston is a riveting storyteller. Her latest creation is a shape-shifting gator man who lurks in the marshes, waiting to steal human souls. But when boastful Sonny Wrapped loses a wrestling match with an elusive alligator named Ghost—and a man is found murdered by the railroad tracks soon after—young Zora’s tales of a mythical evil creature take on an ominous and far more complicated complexion, jeopardizing the peace and security of an entire town and forcing three children to come to terms with the dual-edged power of pretending.

Zora’s best friend, Carrie, narrates this coming-of-age story set in the Eden-like town of Eatonville, Florida, where justice isn’t merely an exercise in retribution, but a testimony to the power of community, love, and pride. A fictionalization of the early years of a literary giant, this astonishing novel is the first project ever to be endorsed by the Zora Neale Hurston Trust that was not authored by Hurston herself.


Praise for ZORA AND ME

World Book Night 2014 Selection
Winner of the 2011 Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award from the American Library Association
Nominated for the Edgar Award for Best Juvenile
Fall 2010 Indie Next Pick
Kirkus Reviews Best of 2010 Children and Teens Books
New York Public Library 2010 Pick: 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing
Junior Library Guild Selection
ABC 2010 New Voices Selection
SIBA 2010 Okra Award Winner
Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award
Children’s Literature Assembly 2011 Notable Children’s Book in the Language Arts
SIBA 2011 Book Award Finalist
Audie Awards Finalist in the Teen Category

“The brilliance of this novel is its rendering of African-American child life during the Jim Crow era as a time of wonder and imagination, while also attending to its harsh realities. Absolutely outstanding.“—Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

“Thrilling and heartbreaking.“—Booklist, Starred Review

“Evokes a world of un-self-conscious blackness and children steeped in games and fantasy in a moral, tightknit community.“—The New York Times

“One of the best children’s books of the year.“—Essence

“What a joy! Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon have taken the best of Zora Neale Hurston and made something even better! Zora was a wonderful woman and now we see she was an awesome child, also. A great summer read but an even better winter’s tale around the fire. I’m so glad I’m still a child so I can enjoy, without apology, Zora and Me.“—Nikki Giovanni

“A spirit of gentleness pervades this story, along with an air of mystery and natural magic.“—School Library Journal

“The authors’ language catches the time and place…The story is insightful about the emotional needs of characters young and old.“—Chicago Tribune

“An adventure story featuring Hurston as a kind of ‘girl detective.’“—USA Today

“Debut authors Bond and Simon do their subject proud, spinning a tale about the childhood of writer Zora Neale Hurston, who ‘didn’t have any trouble telling a fib or stretching a story for fun.’ …the authors adeptly evoke a racially fraught era and formative events—whether they’re true or true enough—in Hurston’s youth.“—Publishers Weekly

“Move over, Nancy Drew. There’s a new girl sleuth in town: a fourth-grader named Zora Neale Hurston. Vividly imagined…This mystery not only thrills and chills but vibrantly evokes a small Southern town in the early 20th century.“—The Washington Post

“Zora’s a writer. Thankfully, Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon are writers too, and gifted, generous ones at that; their re-imagined, fourth-grade incarnation of the Harlem Renaissance author Zora Neale Hurston never seems to drag under the weight of biographical significance or historical fiction.“—Los Angeles Review of Books

Jessica SpiveyB, S