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Their Eyes Were Watching God Paperback – Deckle Edge, May 30, 2006
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From the Back Cover
One of the most important works of twentieth-century American literature, Zora Neale Hurston's beloved 1937 classic, Their Eyes Were Watching God, is an enduring Southern love story sparkling with wit, beauty, and heartfelt wisdom. Told in the captivating voice of a woman who refuses to live in sorrow, bitterness, fear, or foolish romantic dreams, it is the story of fair-skinned, fiercely independent Janie Crawford, and her evolving selfhood through three marriages and a life marked by poverty, trials, and purpose. A true literary wonder, Hurston's masterwork remains as relevant and affecting today as when it was first published—perhaps the most widely read and highly regarded novel in the entire canon of African American literature.
About the Author
Zora Neale Hurston was a novelist, folklorist, and anthropologist. An author of four novels (Jonah’s Gourd Vine, 1934; Their Eyes Were Watching God, 1937; Moses, Man of the Mountain, 1939; and Seraph on the Suwanee, 1948); two books of folklore (Mules and Men, 1935, and Tell My Horse, 1938); an autobiography (Dust Tracks on a Road, 1942); and over fifty short stories, essays, and plays. She attended Howard University, Barnard College and Columbia University, and was a graduate of Barnard College in 1927. She was born on January 7, 1891, in Notasulga, Alabama, and grew up in Eatonville, Florida. She died in Fort Pierce, in 1960. In 1973, Alice Walker had a headstone placed at her gravesite with this epitaph: “Zora Neale Hurston: A Genius of the South.”
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Hurston opens up a space for us to envision life shortly after Emancipation - where African Americans were freed but not free. She illuminates an early Black community (true) and one of the strong women (fictional) in that community. The trials and tribulations of the many characters and the barriers they encountered - the moments of joy, happiness, and pain all grip the reader and help the reader to not only imagine but to feel what it might have felt like to live during this time in the community with the people. A masterful work.
The most special part of Zora Neale Hurston's writing is that she takes subjects that society wants to segment into "good" or "bad" and makes them human -- thereby making them complicated. Subjects like infidelity, domestic abuse, killing for self-protection, killing as an act of mercy, colorism, white savior complex, poverty, female pride, female submission, moral relativism... You name a tough topic, and Hurston handles it in this book with a deft touch rarely found in today's world.
NOW I understand why it's a classic & don't just have to take everyone else's word for it. Definitely worth a read or ten.
The story concerns Janie, a black woman raised by her former slave grandmother. Wanting her to be happy and not used, her grandmother arranges a marriage for Janie at a young age. But Janie rejects the marriage that brings her no happiness, and runs off to an all-black town in Florida. The characters she meets are very well drawn, and the emotion truly shines through.
Now one thing you have to know is that the story uses a lot of dialect writing rather than standard spelling. If this annoys you, you're probably not going to enjoy the book. And I have to say, the final events of the book rely on some truly terrible decision making. At the end though, this didn't ruin the book for me, and I can recommend it to readers of any age.