A bestseller in 1933, and subsequently adapted into two beloved and controversial films, "Imitation of Life" has played a vital role in ongoing conversations about race, femininity, and the American Dream. Bea Pullman, a white single mother, and her African American maid, Delilah Johnston, also a single mother, rear their daughters together and become business partners. Combining Bea s business savvy with Delilah s irresistible southern recipes, they build an Aunt Jemima-like waffle business and an international restaurant empire. Yet their public success brings them little happiness. Bea is torn between her responsibilities as a businesswoman and those of a mother; Delilah is devastated when her light-skinned daughter, Peola, moves away to pass as white. "Imitation of Life" struck a chord in the 1930s, and it continues to resonate powerfully today.
The author of numerous bestselling novels, a masterful short story writer, and an outspoken social activist, Fannie Hurst was a major celebrity in the first half of the twentieth century. Daniel Itzkovitz s introduction situates "Imitation of Life" in its literary, biographical, and cultural contexts, addressing such topics as the debates over the novel and films, the role of Hurst s one-time secretary and great friend Zora Neale Hurston in the novel s development, and the response to the novel by Hurst s friend Langston Hughes, whose one-act satire, Limitations of Life (which reverses the races of Bea and Delilah), played to a raucous Harlem crowd in the late 1930s. This edition brings a classic of popular American literature back into print."