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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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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.
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.
It is one of the greatest novels I have ever read: technically perfect, incredibly deep and poignant, never less than enthralling, never short of poetry. Hurston describes the racism and sexism faced by African American women accurately and, at times, graphically, but as a reader I never wanted to look away.
You don't have to care that this was a new kind of storytelling at the time. You don't have to be black. You don't have to be all about social justice. And you don't have to be feminist to enjoy this book. That's because, at its heart, there is a gorgeous love story, while all around it is a novel of learning to take care of oneself, to listen to one's own instincts, and to live an authentic life. This is one to re-read on the regular.