A previously unheard of twitter account is making the rounds this week with a viral too-good-to-be-true story of cinematic proportions. Aziah King (@_zolarmoon) has told us a tale worthy of attention and the whole world is noticing. Readers have compared the narrative to classic tales of sex and revenge like Pulp Fiction or Showgirls while others—including Missy Elliott—are suggesting the story itself should be turned into its own movie.
But what if we took the Twitter story seriously and reviewed it on its own merit? As a piece of literature in and of itself? Let's try it!
Zola can be considered a contemporary update of a narrative as old as time—a raunchy remix of the "Home-Adventure-Home" structure. With a cast of strong characters, each fully realized and multi-dimensional, the story guides us through the trials and tribulations of a particularly harrowing night in the world of sex work. After Zola, a waitress at Hooters, bonds with a customer over their shared "hoeism," the two take a road trip to Florida, where stripclubs, pimps, hooking, drugs and extreme violence all come into play. Shining light on an often under-discussed topic, Zola takes seriously the lives of its subjects while never losing its sense of humor.
The eponymous narrator of Zola is a breath of fresh air in a literary world otherwise stagnant with overly-sentimental storytellers. With diction that perfectly compliments the medium of choice (Twitter), Zola maintains a lightheartedness to her often harrowing tale with punctuational uses of "lmfao" or "omg." We understand both the seriousness and the inherent humor of the drama through these tactics. The very first few tweets are a case in point, and have the power to instantly hook readers:
The themes that follow are manifold. Motifs of race, sex, and class often overlap in interesting and surprisingly dynamic ways. While taking the stories of sex workers seriously is only a late-modernist invention, the millenial era update on this narrative is much needed for contemporary audiences, and Zola delivers. It is a story of love, loss, sadness, and at some points pure existential turmoil. Jarrett's botched suicide attempt is particularly moving as an expression of the futility of meaning in the post-modern era.
Zola is as powerful (and funny) as works by both literary and cinematic masters. Comparable to the pornologies of the French writer and philosopher George Batailles, the work has an almost surrealist quality as Zola travels from depravity to depravity, attempting with coolheaded insight to both further involve herself and extricate herself. Read the excerpt below to see just how depraved this story gets (yes, there's even a murder).
If Zola is doing anything, it is now forcing us to reconsider the restricting limits of what "is" or "is not" considered "literature." As poetry becomes an obscure and obsolete art form and as the novel wanes in popularity, humans must invent new methods of expressing themselves, and those methods will always be concurrent with the progress of technology. King's narrative is as much a tale of the human condition as any "serious" text, so why not read it as such? Could this be the start of a new literary movement? Let's hope so.