Forgotten Books: Been There, Done That

By Adria Carey Perez

Do you know the story of Zora Neale Hurston? She published Their Eyes Were Watching God, one of my favorite once-forgotten books in 1937, was a writer at the center of the Harlem Renaissance, and was an adventurous anthropologist and folklorist, traveling extensively in the South, Jamaica, Haiti, and Honduras. And she died penniless in obscurity in 1960.

She traveled, she wrote, and she challenged cultural mores of her time. Because of a 1975 Ms. Magazine article by Alice Walker, Zora was pulled back into the cultural zeitgeist. Her work now sits firmly on high school and university syllabi.

There are millions of books by writers, especially women writers (adventurous women, smart women, scared women, questioning women) that have fallen out of print. Like sunken ships, they have fallen to depths where we no longer know they exist. Let’s bring ’em up.

You know how they say there’s no new ideas? My guess is that there are books out there about places we think we’ve just discovered, foods we think no one has ever eaten, and risks that we think have never been taken. There are a few websites furthering this conversation (thank you, New York Times and Neglected Books), but there is space in the conversation, in the marketplace, and in travel writing for these texts.

But if we go to Amazon and search for a travel guide for China, we are more than likely to be given the top five options–and there will be lots of useful information about going there. However, Elizabeth Coatsworth’s trip to China will evoke the feeling of being in China. And many of her books are out of print.

I am interested in recovering these sunken treasures. If you know or love a book that is out of print, particularly one written by a woman on a journey, comment below or send me an email at