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Next Up: Their Eyes Were Watching God

I read Their Eyes Were Watching God back in college, and I remember being really impressed with the novel.

The Wikipedia entry about the novel says it “has come to be regarded as a seminal work in both African-American literature and women’s literature.” Screw that. Let’s just say it’s a seminal work in literature. Period.

This novel is the real deal, and I’m excited to read it again.

Here are a few facts about Their Eyes Were Watching God and Zora Neale Hurston:

  • The novel, published in 1937, focuses on the story of Janie Crawford, an African-American teenage girl.
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God was controversial when it was first published, partly because of Hurston’s rejection of the “racial uplift” technique. More on that later.
  • Hurston wrote the novel while she was living in Haiti doing research as part of a Guggenheim Fellowship.
  • Many notable African-American authors criticized the novel when it was released, including Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, and Alain Locke.
  • The novel was “rediscovered” in the 1970s.
  • The book was adapted into a made-for-TV movie, produced by Oprah Winfrey, in 2005.
  • Hurston was, famously, a Republican and was affectionately known as “America’s favorite black conservative.” She generally disagreed with the philosophies of Communism and the New Deal and supported Booker T. Washington’s style of “self-help politics.” More on this later.
  • Hurston passed away in 1960 at the age of 69.

I should have plenty of good blog material with this book, and with all interesting information about Zora Neale Hurston.

You’ll be hearing a lot more about both in the coming weeks. In the meantime, what are your thoughts about Their Eyes Were Watching God?

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20 Comments Post a comment
  1. deweydecimalsbutler #

    Oh, I adore this book tremendously and wrote an entry on it pretty early on in my own blog. What I love the most about this book is that the entire thing is so beautifully crafted. Hurston blurs the line between prose and verse. I wanted my AP students to do a close reading on it, so I went through the book trying to find an ideal passage and realized the entire book is incredibly crafted – not just a few scenes of particular poignancy – the entire book! I even made time for it in my honors Brit lit class at the end of the year, and I got a lump in my throat reading it in the last few chapters. I think those kids will forever think I was giving a dramatic pause. Nope. I was trying not to embarrass myself in front of a class of seniors. Enjoy rereading this book, and I’m really looking forward to what everyone has to say.

    The biggest testament to this book comes from when Alice Walker rediscovered it. My understanding is that she found it so touching and powerful that she found the spot of Hurston’s unmarked grave and bought her a headstone. That’s a huge tribute in my opinion.

    Like

    February 13, 2014
    • Great endorsement. Can’t wait to revisit it and, hopefully, I’ll feel the same way.

      Like

      February 13, 2014
  2. The dialogue in the book is amazing. Also, I love the descriptions of the setting, as well. Hurston has some of the best descriptions of the South in all of literature

    Like

    February 13, 2014
  3. Thank you for reminding me that I need to read this again. I had no idea about her politics– interesting. I’ll google and see if I can find a good biography, too.

    Like

    February 13, 2014
    • Lucille #

      Wrapped in Rainbows, by Valerie Boyd,, is an excellent biography of Zora..

      Like

      February 15, 2014
  4. I also loved this book when I read it years ago… and agreed, it’s a great piece of literature, period.

    Like

    February 13, 2014
  5. This was one of my favorite novels in college! It has so many layers of meaning, so many different perspectives.

    Like

    February 13, 2014
  6. I recall loving the book when I read it over 20 years ago. And if I remember correctly, there was some amazing language used to describe a storm. I’m going to have to find it on the bookshelf and take a look.

    Like

    February 13, 2014
  7. I reviewed this book as well. I struggled through it for a bit because of the dialect but once I got it, it wasn’t a problem. It is certainly one of the most beautiful love stories ever. With so much outside influence on relationships these days, I think it’s an important read and very relevant today.The message I ultimately got from the book is to have the courage to do what makes you happy.

    Like

    February 13, 2014
    • Yeah, the dialect will probably slow me down. But I’ve read some books with it before, so hopefully I’ll pick it up quickly.

      Like

      February 17, 2014
  8. Vee #

    This book is one of my all-time favorites. Over the past 18 years (aging myself there) I have read it several times and it never gets old. Hurston had me from the first line and the dialogue is absolutely inspired. I can’t wait to read your review. Enjoy!

    http://www.honeylemontea.com

    Like

    February 13, 2014
  9. I find it very interesting that when I read this book in high school we did not learn about her political standing. I would definitely love to read it again.

    Like

    February 13, 2014
  10. It is too bad she didn’t live long enough to see it re-discovered. Again, here is another writer who had to wait until they were dead to be appreciated for their greatness.

    Like

    February 13, 2014
  11. Their Eyes Were Watching God was the book I chose to write about for my high school senior literary paper. That is by now a long time ago, but the book made such an impact on me, I remember what it was like to read it the first time, completely consumed by her descriptive langauge. There is so much to praise, but what I wrote about back then was the symbolism. This makes me giggle thinking of your post not too long ago about what authors themselves had to say about symbolism and I have to wonder: what would Zora Neale Hurston have said about all the symbolism in her novel I believed to have found?

    Like

    February 14, 2014
  12. Yay! This is one of my favorites.

    Like

    February 14, 2014
  13. This was one of the few books in high school that I remember enjoying. I want to re-read it in the next few years.

    Like

    February 14, 2014
  14. Reblogged this on studiotj and commented:
    It’s been a long while since I read tis book but it is definitely a good read. It has been so long that I may need to find it and re-read it.

    Like

    February 16, 2014
  15. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

    Like

    February 19, 2014

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  1. How Zora Neale Hurston Changed African-American Culture | 101 Books

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