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Their Eyes Were Watching God

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Fair and long-legged, independent and articulate, Janie Crawford sets out to be her own person -- no mean feat for a black woman in the '30s. Janie's quest for identity takes her through three marriages and into a journey back to her roots.


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Fair and long-legged, independent and articulate, Janie Crawford sets out to be her own person -- no mean feat for a black woman in the '30s. Janie's quest for identity takes her through three marriages and into a journey back to her roots.

30 review for Their Eyes Were Watching God

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jesse (JesseTheReader)

    I have mixed feelings on this book. On one hand I loved the writing style and I loved the main character and following her journey through life's struggles. On the other hand it was slow moving, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I felt things could've been cut to keep the story moving better. I understand why this is such a well loved classic, but I didn't love it as much as I'd hoped to! :(

  2. 5 out of 5

    Emily May

    Janie saw her life like a giant tree in leaf with the things suffered, things enjoyed, things done and undone. Dawn and doom was in the branches. I've spent many years wanting to read this book, but also not wanting to read it because the title made me think it was going to be heavy on religion, which is something I generally avoid in books. It's not, though. It's a wonderful, lyrical tale of a woman's life and search for independence. Now I'm fascinated by interpretations of the title because r Janie saw her life like a giant tree in leaf with the things suffered, things enjoyed, things done and undone. Dawn and doom was in the branches. I've spent many years wanting to read this book, but also not wanting to read it because the title made me think it was going to be heavy on religion, which is something I generally avoid in books. It's not, though. It's a wonderful, lyrical tale of a woman's life and search for independence. Now I'm fascinated by interpretations of the title because religion and God don't feature much in the story at all. I’ve been reading about the idea that the title implies how Janie must look to God - not white people, not husbands, not well-meaning family members - to determine her future. While this theory doesn't give her much agency, it does fit with her search for a life outside of others' expectations (except God's). It's set in Florida in the early 20th Century, at the height of Jim Crow. The novel begins with Janie Crawford sharing her life story with her friend Pheoby. We are taken back to her youth and sexual awakening-- an event that triggers her grandmother's insistence that she marry for protection. Nanny, herself, is fascinating. You feel both Janie's frustration toward her controlling grandmother, and Nanny's desire that Janie will have a better life and be taken care of. "She was borned in slavery time when folks, dat is black folks, didn’t sit down anytime dey felt lak it. So sittin’ on porches lak de white madam look lak uh might fine thing tuh her. Dat’s whut she wanted for me – don’t keer whut it cost. Git up on uh high chair and sit dere. She didn’t have time tuh think whut tuh do after you got up on de stool uh do nothin’." As you can see from above, the novel's dialogue makes strong use of dialect and colloquialisms. Through three marriages and many instances of physical abuse, Janie remains fierce and unapologetic. It was a terrible time in America for a black woman to find freedom and independence, but Janie pursues it nevertheless. It's now eighty years after the book's first publication and Janie's indistinguishable spirit is as captivating as it surely always was. In the end, the book is about defying expectations and living for oneself. Everyone in Janie's life wants and expects something from her. Her Nanny wants her to marry for protection, white men want to keep her down, darker-skinned African-Americans feel she should emphasize her lighter skin, each of her husbands wants her to behave and dress in a way that suits them. But Janie remains wholly herself throughout. I love her. Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube

  3. 4 out of 5

    Michael Finocchiaro

    I read this masterpiece for the first time in high school. The love story of Janie and Tea Cake is one of stupendous beauty. Zora Neal Hurston's text is a treasure: "So she went on thinking in soft, easy phrases while all around the house, the night time put on flesh and blackness." Early in life, Janie is taken care of by her grandmother Nanny, "Every tear you drop squeezes a cup uh blood outa mah heart" As she grew, "Janie waited for a bloom time, a green time and an orange time." She is married of I read this masterpiece for the first time in high school. The love story of Janie and Tea Cake is one of stupendous beauty. Zora Neal Hurston's text is a treasure: "So she went on thinking in soft, easy phrases while all around the house, the night time put on flesh and blackness." Early in life, Janie is taken care of by her grandmother Nanny, "Every tear you drop squeezes a cup uh blood outa mah heart" As she grew, "Janie waited for a bloom time, a green time and an orange time." She is married off to an old, rich man, but grows restless, "There are years that ask questions and years that answer." Ultimately , she gets an answer takes off with the ambitious Jody Starks. But, her hopes are shattered as Jody's ambitions in Eatonville, FL (coincidentally Hurston's hometown) where she feels, "Four walls squeezing her breath out." as Jody ignores her and builds his empire in the town. He passes away and Janie meets her true love Tea Cake and she seems to have found her inner peace: "So she sat on the porch and watched the moon rise. Soon its amber fluid was drenching the earth, and quenching the thirst of the day." Tea Cake gives her some lessons of wisdom: "See dat? You'se got de world in uh jug and make out you don't know it. But Ah'm glad tuh be the one tuh tell yuh." She sheds her reticences and fears in her love for him: "He drifted off to sleep and Janie looked down on him and felt a soul-crushing love. So her soul crawled out from its hiding place." She never takes on any religion for: "All gods who receive homage are cruel. All gods dispense suffering without reason. Otherwise, they would not be worshipped." Her love is her temple as she dreamed of under the pear trees as a young girl with Nanny. Disaster eventually strikes, as it always does, gods dispensing their unreasoning suffering. "The wind came back with triple fury, and put out the light for the last time. They sat in company with the others in other shanties, their eyes straining against crude walls and their souls asking if He meant to measure their puny might against His. They seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were watching God." This novel was a forgotten masterpiece published in 1935 but forgotten until Alice Walker rediscovered her - and her gravesite - in 1977. Since, it has been appreciated as the quiet, beautiful monument to a woman's strength and endurance. A must read in these times of women-hating rhetoric in Drumpf's amerikkka. The attacks on Planned Parenthood and the bullshit "reverse discrimination" are just two of the many demonstrations of why this book is important as both a feminist and anti-racist classic. Their Eyes Were Watching God is one of the most beautifully evoked portraits of a woman of color that I have ever read.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey Keeten

    ”Dey gointuh make ‘miration ‘cause mah love didn’t work lak they love, if dey ever had any. Then you must tell ‘em dat love ain’t somethin’ lak uh grindstone dat’s de same thing everywhere and do de same thing tuh everything it touch. Love is lak de sea. It’s uh movin’ thing, but still and all, it takes its shape from de shore it meets, and it’s different with every shore.” Janie Crawford knows about love. She knows how life is with it and she knows how life is without it. She had three marriages ”Dey gointuh make ‘miration ‘cause mah love didn’t work lak they love, if dey ever had any. Then you must tell ‘em dat love ain’t somethin’ lak uh grindstone dat’s de same thing everywhere and do de same thing tuh everything it touch. Love is lak de sea. It’s uh movin’ thing, but still and all, it takes its shape from de shore it meets, and it’s different with every shore.” Janie Crawford knows about love. She knows how life is with it and she knows how life is without it. She had three marriages with varying degrees of success. The first was a marriage with a much older man when she was on the verge of womanhood. Her Grandmother, fearing her own death, and wanting to make sure that Janie had some security in her life made arrangements with a man of means to be her husband. Nanny wasn’t worried about love, but about whether a man could provide. She was looking at her granddaughter’s future with old eyes. Love and lust, from her withered view, were just enticements best skipped for the security of a solid roof and a steady diet of square meals. Nanny was a force of nature and any protest that Janie may have thought about making was quickly swallowed up in the gale force wind of her grandmother’s will. ”Nanny’s head and face looked like the standing roots of some old tree that had been torn away by storm. Foundation of ancient power that no longer mattered. The cooling palma christi leaves that Janie had bound about her grandma’s head with a white rag had wilted down and become part and parcel of the woman. Her eyes didn’t bore and pierce. They diffused and melted Janie, the room and the world into one comprehension.” Zora Neale Hurston It wasn’t long before a smooth talking man by the name of Joe Starks came along and told her all the wonderful things he would be doing with his life. With barely a twist of her arm she jumped in the buggy with him and moved to Eatonville, Florida where an all black community was being formed into a town. Joe could see the potential and opened up a general store/post office and started making money hand over fist. He didn’t like the way the men looked at Janie and had her tie up her lovely hair everyday so as not to rile up so much lust in the male population. He was controlling and had words of “wisdom” to attach to everything he instructed her to do. ”You sho loves to tell me whut to do, but Ah can’t tell you nothin’ Ah see!” “Dat’s ‘cause you need tellin’’ Joe rejoined hotly. “It would be pitiful if Ah didn’t. Somebody got to think for women and chillun and chickens and cows. I god, they sho don’t think none theirselves.” Now Joe just seemed to fold all up in himself and took sickly and died leaving Janie with a good stack of green and as good a living as she wanted to make. Now Janie was North of forty, but was still a damn good looking woman. "The men noticed her firm buttocks like she had grape fruits in her hip pockets; the great rope of black hair swinging to her waist and unraveling in the wind like a plume; then her pugnacious breasts trying to bore holes in her shirt. They, the men, were saving with the mind what they lost with the eye.” The Lovely Halle Barry played Janie Crawford in the 2005 movie version The men of the community that had been having unnatural thoughts that came...well...very naturally to them regarding this married woman soon found themselves on the outside track once she became a widow. A young man by the name of Tea Cake showed up and suddenly for the first time Janie found out what love felt like. Dear lord did the community carry on about this old woman shaking the sheets with this youngster with no money and no name for himself. Janie herself was suspicious even pushed him about the thought that his intentions might be built on false pretenses. ”Janie, Ah hope God may kill me, if Ah’m lyin’. Nobody else on earth kin hold uh candle tuh you, baby. You got de keys to de kingdom.” Now what woman could resist that. I'm ready. Where do you want to go? They moved down in the Everglades to pick beans by day and for Tea Cake to shake the dice by night. He could pick a mean guitar as well and sang songs for the entertainment of all those hard working people. Yo’ mama don’t wear no Draws Ah seen her when she took ‘em Off She soaked ‘em in alcoHol She sold ‘em tuh de Santy Claus He told her ‘twas aginst de Law To wear dem dirty Draws Like all her other husbands Tea Cake is not above being jealous. Men kept circling around her like bees looking for a hive. ”Before the week was over he had whipped Janie. Not because her behavior justified his jealousy, but it relieved that awful fear inside him. Being able to whip her reassured him in possession. No brutal beating at all. He just slapped her around a bit to show who was boss. Everybody talked about it next day in the fields. It aroused a sort of envy in both men and women. The way he petted and pampered her as if those two or three face slaps had nearly killed her made the women see visions and the helpless way she hung on him made men dream dreams.” Yeah they are looking at you Zora. Now there are hurricanes, heart breaks, rabid dogs, lustful men, stiletto knives, and a young girl blossoming into a beautiful woman that has to find her place in the geometry and geography of love. Hurston has a keen eye for observation and an attentive ear for conversation. I had so many notes and jotted down so many page numbers of amazing quotes that if I’d worked them all into this review I’d go way over my allotted word count. Now Zora Neale Hurston did not become famous for being a gifted writer. She worked as a substitute school teacher, librarian, freelance writer, and even as a maid towards the end of her life. When she suffers a stroke in 1959 she is forced to enter the St. Lucie County Welfare Home where she remains until her death on January 28th, 1960 from hypertensive heart disease. She is buried in an unmarked grave in the Garden of Heavenly Rest, Fort Pierce. In the 1970s Alice Walker becomes an advocated for Hurston’s body of work. Through Walker’s efforts Zora’s reputation is restored and her works begin to be added to the syllabuses of major universities. As a final tribute to Hurston, Walker finds the approximate point of her internment and puts a grave marker on the site. This is vindication for a voice that was not heard by enough people when she was alive, but now at last she is being read, discussed, and loved. If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten

  5. 4 out of 5

    Fabian

    A story as melancholic for its relationship to the writer's own life/destiny as another Southern masterpiece "Confederacy of Dunces." I cannot imagine that this isn't Toni Morrison's true foundations of prose--the beauty of which borders on the sublime. The modernism of "Their Eyes" lies in the intermixing of 1930's black vernacular with poetic lines which themselves carry astute and precise craft--this is outstanding. Lightning in a bottle--that's what this book reads like. I love to choose side A story as melancholic for its relationship to the writer's own life/destiny as another Southern masterpiece "Confederacy of Dunces." I cannot imagine that this isn't Toni Morrison's true foundations of prose--the beauty of which borders on the sublime. The modernism of "Their Eyes" lies in the intermixing of 1930's black vernacular with poetic lines which themselves carry astute and precise craft--this is outstanding. Lightning in a bottle--that's what this book reads like. I love to choose sides in literary battles--most of which are absurd but still funny to reminisce about (as if the reader himself was actually there). Richard Wright versus Hurston. A 500 page discourse on the unfairness of being black ("Native Son"), vs. this, a behemoth underdog, a "rediscovered" gem of a novel which sings and never underwhelms. "Their Eyes" is better, Hurston a better writer, THE END. Janie the pre-feminist heroine is incredibly free--restraints are identified & gotten rid of properly--& this independence can be seen in the intrepid style with which high & low literature interplay. The prose is severely, sincerely alive. The sadness comes when you realize that Hurston was outright forgotten--she had to be found, her grave properly marked, by none other than Alice Walker (the topic for a screenplay perhaps?). Even the man at the end of "Their Eyes" has a proper burial, while she, the progenitor of it all was utterly forgotten--but re-found by smart and freeminded readers. The prophecy is chilling, but the body of work is its stark opposite--alive, beautiful, raw, human, poetic, godly.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Samadrita

    Here is a woman who led a wretched life for years, doomed to stagnate in the drab depths of oblivion even after her death which had gone under the radar and generated no nostalgia-soaked, emotional obituaries. She lay in an unmarked grave in the Garden of Heavenly Rest, Florida, treated by her own contemporaries like an outcast because of a difference in perspectives, to be resuscitated and acknowledged as one of the foremost powerful voices that ever reverberated across the African-American lit Here is a woman who led a wretched life for years, doomed to stagnate in the drab depths of oblivion even after her death which had gone under the radar and generated no nostalgia-soaked, emotional obituaries. She lay in an unmarked grave in the Garden of Heavenly Rest, Florida, treated by her own contemporaries like an outcast because of a difference in perspectives, to be resuscitated and acknowledged as one of the foremost powerful voices that ever reverberated across the African-American literary landscape years later. And here is her creation, a 'coffee-and-cream' skinned Janie Crawford, a child born out of a possible rape, a sure forerunner to Toni Morrison's Sethe, Denver and Beloved or Alice Walker's Celie and Nettie. A mulatto woman in a white man's world, who grew aware of an identity not shackled by notions of race, skin color, and even gender, who could look beyond the small horizon carelessly conferred on her by an era which was bluntly apathetic to her kind, who could aspire to be free of a legacy of mere victimhood. And here I am, trying to make sure I do not fuse Zora and Janie together, unable to decide how to love, revere and pity them at the same time. I watched the young and carefree Janie, who bubbled over with an enthusiasm for life, eventually morph into the Janie who embraced the bittersweet realization of having loved and lost. My eyes traced her unsure footsteps from financial servitude to financial stability, from the daily battle of ignoring the sting of self-denial to grasping at a life free of emotional subservience. I loved the hapless, innocent Janie who consented to being passed over like property from her grandmother's ownership to her first husband's just as much I admired the Janie who found her salvation in Tea Cake's good-natured laughter after two marriages which had simultaneously stripped her of her last shred of self-esteem and caused her to listen to that stifled inner voice. And I felt a strange kind of happiness building up inside for the Janie who would not succumb to the temptation of self-loathing like the misguided Mrs Turner, the Janie who found the firm ground of self-awareness to tread on while the world of conflicting ideas rotated on its axis like ever. Zora Neale Hurston had a rich dual voice - one of them fearlessly recounting the quirks characterizing the Black American community in the deep south still clinging on to the outer fringes of a white-dominated society intertwined with the lyrical, oneiric voice of a philosopher and a feminist, possibly one of the first among her kind. And it is this wholly harmonious union of these two voices which transforms this bildungsroman into a honeyed ballad of love and grief, of psychological bondage and emancipation. "He looked like the love thoughts of women. He could be a bee to a blossom-a pear tree blossom in the spring. He seemed to be crushing scent out of the world with his footsteps. Crushing aromatic herbs with every step he took. Spices hung about him. He was a glance from God." Janie never bore a grudge against her 'God' for making her path to fulfillment so long and arduous. She merely watched Him with hopeful eyes, lovingly accepting all He bestowed on her. And I watched Janie with a tear-strained smile.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Written in lush prose that blossoms around lines of vernacular dialogue, Their Eyes Were Watching God follows Janie Crawford as she wades through three turbulent marriages toward a state of financial and emotional independence. The story begins at its end, with a forty-something Janie returning to her old town after years spent elsewhere; her best friend Pheoby calls upon her, and Janie begins to recount her many travels and experiences to Pheoby. But, despite the frame's promise that Janie will Written in lush prose that blossoms around lines of vernacular dialogue, Their Eyes Were Watching God follows Janie Crawford as she wades through three turbulent marriages toward a state of financial and emotional independence. The story begins at its end, with a forty-something Janie returning to her old town after years spent elsewhere; her best friend Pheoby calls upon her, and Janie begins to recount her many travels and experiences to Pheoby. But, despite the frame's promise that Janie will be the one to narrate most of the novel, the narrative is in fact split between long stretches of dialogue and the voice of an omniscient narrator. From the start, then, the novel is interested in problematizing the ownership and interpretation of Janie's life story, a story of one Black woman's endurance in the face of vitriolic misogyny and racism. The narrative's clash between voices forces readers to consider on what terms, in what ways, and to whom Janie's story is told. The book's well-structured plot makes for a highly absorbing reading experience, even as its distinctive structure compels readers to remain acutely aware that they are reading a work of literary artifice.

  8. 4 out of 5

    AJ Griffin

    Another "I don't remember it very well, but I know I liked it" story. Here's what I do recall: A) The main character was a woman, and she had something like 3 lovers throughout the book. Saucy. B) One of these dudes was named either Teabag, Cornbread, Teabread, or Breadbag. Or something. C) There was some issue with the weather towards the end. D) Zora Neal Hurston got arrested for fucking a kid, or something (I guess that wasn't really in the book, but whatever). Somehow I managed to get through th Another "I don't remember it very well, but I know I liked it" story. Here's what I do recall: A) The main character was a woman, and she had something like 3 lovers throughout the book. Saucy. B) One of these dudes was named either Teabag, Cornbread, Teabread, or Breadbag. Or something. C) There was some issue with the weather towards the end. D) Zora Neal Hurston got arrested for fucking a kid, or something (I guess that wasn't really in the book, but whatever). Somehow I managed to get through this before my "oh, I should think about black people?" phase, without even batting an eyelid of thought at it. I must have been busy.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Robin

    I was prepared, based on the many five star reviews for this novel by many of my esteemed Goodreads friends, for a worthy book. I was prepared, based on its 1937 publishing date and its setting of Eatonville, Florida and then the Everglades, that important racial themes would be present. What I wasn't prepared for, however, was to be knocked over completely by the shimmering, feathery-fine, poetic prose. I wasn't prepared to be told a courageous, all-in, love story. Zora Neale Hurston's incredibl I was prepared, based on the many five star reviews for this novel by many of my esteemed Goodreads friends, for a worthy book. I was prepared, based on its 1937 publishing date and its setting of Eatonville, Florida and then the Everglades, that important racial themes would be present. What I wasn't prepared for, however, was to be knocked over completely by the shimmering, feathery-fine, poetic prose. I wasn't prepared to be told a courageous, all-in, love story. Zora Neale Hurston's incredible book is the story of Janie Crawford, a middle aged black woman who has had three marriages. Her grandmother (Nanny) was a slave who had been abused by her white master. Her mother (Leafy) was also a victim of rape. She started drinking and disappeared, leaving Nanny to raise Janie. After seeing Janie kiss a boy as a teenager, Nanny insists on Janie marrying a man she didn't know or love, thinking that this was how she could be safe and happy. The familiar people and things had failed her so she hung over the gate and looked up the road towards way off. She knew now that marriage did not make love. Janie's first dream was dead, so she became a woman. She runs off and marries another man, Joe, who turns out to be a controlling misogynist. Despite providing materially for her, Janie is isolated and unhappy. So gradually, she pressed her teeth together and learned to hush. The spirit of the marriage left the bedroom and took to living in the parlour. It was there to shake hands whenever company came to visit, but it never went back inside the bedroom again. And then, she meets Tea Cake. He's twelve years younger, but he is her match. And she lives with him, wholly and sensuously, the way she imagined the way it would be as a teenager, looking upon a pear tree: She saw a dust-bearing bee sink into the sanctum of a bloom; the thousand sister-calyxes arch to meet the love embrace and the ecstatic shiver of the tree from root to tiniest branch creaming in every blossom and frothing with delight. Oh MY. Are you dying yet? With this writing? No? Then, read on these few short samples: The sun was gone, but he had left his footprints in the sky. The morning road air was like a new dress. The stillness was the sleep of swords. No hour is ever eternity, but it has its right to weep. So while I was dizzy with delight, swooning over this writing, I was alternately impressed with the dialogue, written in the dialect of Southern black people of the time. Hurston shows herself to be a master of both poetic prose and colloquial language, and weaves them seamlessly back and forth. While she highlights the ever present racial problems between blacks and whites, she also shows the problems and hindrances caused within her own community, which in some ways are just as limiting. Within the black community there exists a class system, and people are expected to keep to their place. She zeroes in specifically on a woman's place within this culture, and then, in relation to her man. Through all this, shines the love story of Janie and Tea Cake. It is a love that is unhesitating, accepting, passionate and pure. It pulses with adventure and life, and the beating of two devoted hearts. Love is lak the sea. It's uh movin' thing, but still and all, it takes its shape from de shore it meets, and it's different with every shore. I have every admiration for Zora Neale Hurston, who is not only a truly dazzling writer, but an inspiring woman. I learned after reading this book that she was the daughter of former slaves, and that she grew up in the town of Eatonville, where her father was elected mayor. She was a graduate student at Columbia University. Though her life ended in poverty and in an unmarked grave, she left behind a powerful and lasting legacy.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    "Love is like the sea. It's a moving thing, but still and all, it takes its shape from the shore it meets, and it's different with every shore." In the beginning, there was Nanny. Nanny knew what it meant to be a slave to men. And Nanny had a daughter. She saw what happened to her, how she chose to escape pain in oblivion. And Nanny was scared. She was so scared that she wanted to prevent the same thing from happening to her daughter's daughter, even if it meant that she had to force her grandch "Love is like the sea. It's a moving thing, but still and all, it takes its shape from the shore it meets, and it's different with every shore." In the beginning, there was Nanny. Nanny knew what it meant to be a slave to men. And Nanny had a daughter. She saw what happened to her, how she chose to escape pain in oblivion. And Nanny was scared. She was so scared that she wanted to prevent the same thing from happening to her daughter's daughter, even if it meant that she had to force her grandchild to be unhappy. As long as she was unhappy in a different, secure way, with an old and stable man by her side. That is the background of Janie Crawford's story. She is in her early forties, and starts telling a friend her life story in beautiful, colloquial language. And what a life it is! So common and typical, and yet individually painful and loving. Three men, three facets of female experience. Three ways to love and respect each other, and to abuse and kill each other's spirit. Sometimes our family's fear of suffering makes us suffer more than anything we could possibly live through ourselves. And sometimes we find love where we least expect it. Janie sings the Ballad of the Gaol of Woman: "Some love too little, some too long, Some sell, and others buy; Some do the deed with many tears, And some without a sigh: For each (wo)man kills the thing (s)he loves, Yet each (wo)man does not die." Recommended to humanity!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    When I was in school we were given a choice to read Soul on Ice, Johnny got his gun or this book. I choose Johnny, a book that haunts me to this day. Hurston's book always remained in the back of my mind, though I can't help but wonder if I would have appreciated it back then as much as I did now. I did find the dialect difficult at times, but I found if I read it out loud it made more sense. Of course my husband thought I was demented, but he often does. I cannot imagine being married as young a When I was in school we were given a choice to read Soul on Ice, Johnny got his gun or this book. I choose Johnny, a book that haunts me to this day. Hurston's book always remained in the back of my mind, though I can't help but wonder if I would have appreciated it back then as much as I did now. I did find the dialect difficult at times, but I found if I read it out loud it made more sense. Of course my husband thought I was demented, but he often does. I cannot imagine being married as young as Janie was made to marry vent though I understood her grandmothers reasoning. What a life she had. What a tragic ending. A very important symbol of place and time, was what this novel represents for me. Found it amazing that this novel was written in so short a time. Read the forward after I had finished and it was vey informative about the difficult journey this book had and how it largely disappeared for a number of years. Glad I got the chance to read it now.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Melissa Rudder

    When I teach Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God, I tell my students the Alice Walker headstone story and teach the book as a Black Feminist novel that is far, far ahead of its time. I noticed this year that my introduction made my students expect the protagonist, Janie, to jump from the novel's pages as a woman warrior, take no shit from anyone, and--I don't know--burn her bra. But the real beauty of Hurston's novel is that her heroine is a real character living in a real world--a When I teach Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God, I tell my students the Alice Walker headstone story and teach the book as a Black Feminist novel that is far, far ahead of its time. I noticed this year that my introduction made my students expect the protagonist, Janie, to jump from the novel's pages as a woman warrior, take no shit from anyone, and--I don't know--burn her bra. But the real beauty of Hurston's novel is that her heroine is a real character living in a real world--albeit, one that is touched by literary genius and reflective of literary genres as varied and vital as (Hurston's scholarly focus) African American Folk Tradition and the odyssey of the "high mimetic form". (A Black woman presented as the hero of an epic journey in 1937--simply amazing.) Janie struggles. Janie submits. Janie silences herself. But Janie grows. And, in my mind, a revolution begins. Hurston's character construction is superb. At once, her characters are strongly allegorical AND so real that they are breathing entities in the reader's mind (and disturbingly remind you of that uncle you don't really like). Janie is as real as they come. By the end of the story, I, as a reader, am her best friend Pheoby, sitting on that porch with her and listening her to tale. I understand her insecurities, I feel her pain, I smile as she inexplicably giggles for two pages, and I am full of that emotion the conclusion of Hurston's epic tale creates. I love that Hurston gives her readers the tools to understanding Janie's motivation and responses very early in the book in the form of her beautifully constructed pear tree and mule metaphors. It is a wonderful book to teach to those teenagers who still think literary analysis is a sham that teachers come up with to torture students, because Hurston stitches her novel together with meaningful patterns of metaphors and symbols that deliberately guide readers through Janie's experience. Hurston's literary talent shines in her ability both to construct believable, life-like dialogue in strong southern dialect and to create poetic prose rich in metaphor and meaning, as well as in her ability both to spin a tale that leaves the reader in greedy suspense and to write a story that says so much about the nature of love, power, language, race, gender, and identity. The more I read this book, the more I like it. On a side note: As the book is so strongly embedded in oral tradition, my classes listen to a few chapters of the audio book, which is read by Ruby Dee (who also played the role of Janie's grandmother in Oprah's movie). It is simply fantastic. If you're a fan of the book, you should definitely listen to it.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Tara

    I recently reread this book, in February 2011 and wrote a new review. It's a lengthy review, but I learned a lot on the second reading, hence the length. I posted that review on my blog, so here's the link: http://left-handedright-brained.blogs.... ***I decided to remove the original review I posted for this book due to the new review I wrote in February 2011. The original review I posted for this book is no longer how I feel about the book and therefore wanted to move forward with the 2011 revi I recently reread this book, in February 2011 and wrote a new review. It's a lengthy review, but I learned a lot on the second reading, hence the length. I posted that review on my blog, so here's the link: http://left-handedright-brained.blogs.... ***I decided to remove the original review I posted for this book due to the new review I wrote in February 2011. The original review I posted for this book is no longer how I feel about the book and therefore wanted to move forward with the 2011 review. If you decide to visit my blog to read my review, thank you for reading it, I know it's long. I appreciate the time you've given to read my review. Thank you, Tara Nelson (December 2014)

  14. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    Another book that I recently re-read that stands up well to a second reading. Hurston's novel, unlike many classics, is as impressive and as relevant today as it was when written. Hurston's story of Janie, a fair-skinned black woman caught in the time period between the end of slavery and the civil rights movement, is the first woman in her family who has the opportunity to be defined as something other than property. Despite this, Janie is unable achieve self-actualization or seek out the indepe Another book that I recently re-read that stands up well to a second reading. Hurston's novel, unlike many classics, is as impressive and as relevant today as it was when written. Hurston's story of Janie, a fair-skinned black woman caught in the time period between the end of slavery and the civil rights movement, is the first woman in her family who has the opportunity to be defined as something other than property. Despite this, Janie is unable achieve self-actualization or seek out the independence for which she longs; however, this is not due to the racism or prejudices of white society (in fact, there isn't a prominent white character in the book). Instead, Hurston takes a fascinating look at intraracial racism. Janie's obvious "whiteness" sets her apart from the black community. At first, she's envied for her pretty hand-me-down dresses and hair ribbons that she obtains from the kind white family for which her grandmother works. Coupled with her straight hair (which hangs down to her waist), her exquisite beauty, and her light skin, she defies color categorization and leaves the question of "What is black?" lacking a definite answer. Later, she's an outcast because her second husband's "big voice" and quest for power in the all black community of Eatonville comes to be identified with the white masters of days gone by, and Janie comes to be seen in the role of the Southern plantation "mistress." In addition, Hurston explores the repression of women in a patriarchal society. Janie's grandmother tells her that the black woman is the "mule of the world," the lowest of the low. Janie finds this to be true in her first two marriages, as she is treated like property by Logan Killicks and is later objectified by Jody Starks. It isn't until she meets Tea Cake, a man half her age, that Janie begins to live life on her own terms and not by the definition her man has set forth for her. Whether you like the novel or not, it's importance to African-American and feminist literature is undeniable. Cross posted at This Insignificant Cinder

  15. 5 out of 5

    Dolors

    “To meet as far this morning From the world as agreeing With it, you and I Are suddenly what the trees try To tell us we are: That their merely being there Means something; that soon We may touch, love, explain.” Some Trees by John Ashberry. Janie returns to Eatonville with the sunbeams glowing on her shoulders giving her the appearance of a luminescent and almost unearthly goddess whose bare feet voluptuously caress the dusty road. Women on porches sing a harmonious chorus of gossip and covet “To meet as far this morning 
 From the world as agreeing 
 With it, you and I 
 Are suddenly what the trees try To tell us we are: 
 That their merely being there 
 Means something; that soon 
 We may touch, love, explain.” Some Trees by John Ashberry. Janie returns to Eatonville with the sunbeams glowing on her shoulders giving her the appearance of a luminescent and almost unearthly goddess whose bare feet voluptuously caress the dusty road. Women on porches sing a harmonious chorus of gossip and covetousness while men stare greedily at Janie’s lustrous and long hair and sweeping hips moving to the rhythm of a life washed by the sea tides of love and scented by the pear blossoms of desire. Pheoby, Janie’s best friend and confidante, loses no time to meet the newcomer and inquires after the reasons of her unexpected homecoming. It’s under the shadows of dusk, when languid leaves and elongated branches dance at the tune of ephemeral loves and perennial memories, that Janie discloses her journey in flashbacks and unconsciously intertwines her ultimate search for fulfillment as a woman with the three marriages in her life. From Nanny’s sour aftertaste of slavery that comes with the sustained abuse in the hands of the white master, the debasement inflicted by the mistress and the burden of attaining freedom and not knowing what to do with it, to the subtle division between those with fairer skins and those with darker ones, Zora Neale Hurston elevates Janie’s story to an icon portraying the richness of the Afro-American oral culture and its folkloric dialect, symbolizing the survival of the African spirit after decades of merciless oppression and gratuitous atrocity. “You know, honey, us colored folks is branches without roots and that makes things come round in queer ways. You in particular. Ah was born back due in slavery so it wasn’t for me to fulfill my dreams of whut a woman oughta be and to do.” (p. 31) The magic of Hurston’s writing style relays not only in the use of the Afro-American dialect but also in the contrasting classical lyricism of some passages that bond life, love and sensuality together with natural imagery like trees, celestial bodies, seas and shores, which brings enchanting reminiscences of the melodic British Romantic Poets, creating a counter effect for the drumming rawness of the allegorical vernacular. “Janie saw her life like a great tree in leaf with the things suffered, things enjoyed, things done and undone. Dawn and doom was in the branches."(p.20) The natural world offers silent wisdom to sixteen years old Janie when laying down languorously in the shade provided by the branches of the pear tree, where the bees hum and disappear in the hidden crevices of its blossoms, she understands the mystery of sexuality. “She was stretched on her back beneath the pear tree soaking in the alto chant of the visiting bees, the gold of the sun and the painting breath of the breeze when the inaudible voice of it all came to her. She saw a dust-bearing bee sink into the sanctum of a bloom; the thousand sister-calyxes arch to meet the love embrace and the ecstatic shiver of the tree from root to tiniest branch creaming in every blossom and frothing with delight. So this was marriage!” (p. 24) But the trodden path of life will show Janie that marriage doesn’t compel love like the sun the day. Forced to marry Mr. Killicks, an older farmer who is supposed to offer her the security Nanny so much covets for, passionate Janie discovers that some bees stifle the female spirit, which is screaming out loud to be acknowledged to apparently deaf ears. Defying convention and showing uncommon valor, Janie rebels against stupor and elopes with Joe Starks, an ambitious man who has plans to become a “big voice” in Eatonville. Unaware at first of Joe’s chauvinism, Janie believes to have found a worthy companion and marries him only to discover throughout the years that her second husband has tyrannical opinions about the role of women in society. Relegated to a mere personal possession, Janie witnesses her own voice drown into the vast ocean of isolation and degradation. Both Killicks and Starks profane that pear tree ignoring the over-ripe fruit that has been waiting to be cherished as it deserved and it is not until many years later, when Janie becomes a forty years old and attractive widow, that Tea Cake appears disguised as the bee that blossoming Janie has been waiting for during all her life, making her soul crawl out from its hiding place. “He could be a bee to a blossom – a pear tree blossom in the spring. He seemed to be crushing scent out of the world with his footsteps. Crushing aromatic herbs with every step he took. Spices hung around him. He was a glance from God.” (p.161) And so Janie’s melody is finally listened to and her soul sings cloud-high along Tea Cake’s sweet-scented one while they both stare at the dark waters, while their eyes are watching God. But nature, as life, can be miraculous one minute and treacherous the next, and Janie will have to face the tide of misfortune and swim with courage in order not to be dragged by the relentless currents of injustice and despair. Zora Neale Hurston writes with the vivid force of the unheard and the defeated, revealing uncomfortable truths about race and gender while kissing each one of her words with uncanny lyricism and giving voice to the silenced by the weight of history. The shores are waiting to be shaped by the sea of love and waves of memories will sweep the tragedy of mortality imprinting a permanent image on a never-ending horizon. It’s only a matter of keeping the watch in the darkness, trusting that God is looking back. “Love is lak de sea. It’s uh movin’ thing, but still and all, it takes its shape from de shore it meets, and it’s different with every shore.” (p. 284)

  16. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    There are two ways to approach this book: 1. Enjoy the writing! Take in the dialect and try to put yourself in the atmosphere that is created by Hurston’s fantastic prose and poetry. (Side note: The audio version narrated by Ruby Dee only makes this better) 2. While reading, think about this as more of a historical fiction story. Take a moment to read a bit about the South between the Civil War and World War I. How does the end of slavery and the establishment of a free black community in the Sout There are two ways to approach this book: 1. Enjoy the writing! Take in the dialect and try to put yourself in the atmosphere that is created by Hurston’s fantastic prose and poetry. (Side note: The audio version narrated by Ruby Dee only makes this better) 2. While reading, think about this as more of a historical fiction story. Take a moment to read a bit about the South between the Civil War and World War I. How does the end of slavery and the establishment of a free black community in the South affect the progression of the story? What are the attitudes within the black community? I was able to do a bit of both with this. I thought the writing was great. While there were times the dialect and the content caused me to get a little lost, in general I loved getting into the world created by Hurston. While the story was simple, the simple intricacies of the writing were anything but. Sometimes when combining poetical writing into a story it feels forced – almost like the writer is trying to impress you with their ability to be flowery and fancy. That was not the case here. With this book, the Hurston couldn’t help but combine poetry with her prose. As I was reading I could not help but think about the climate of the Southern United States at the time of this story. I am reading Gone With The Wind at the same time as I am reading this and it really is a great companion story to give additional fuel to my thoughts on where black Americans in the south stood during the Civil War, how they came out of it, and where things were for them going into the 20th century. What is also fascinating is to read about the attitudes within the black community; while we might think that everyone was united in the black community after the Civil War, that was not necessarily the case. If you like historical fiction, stories about American people during different eras, well-written prose combined with well-written poetry, you should check this book out. It is great for either a getaway into great writing, or lots of fuel for a discussion about a volatile era in American history.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Ansbro

    Zora Neale Hurston was born to write. This 1930s deeply human story of one indefatigable black woman's life, loves and catastrophes dazzled and delighted me from start to finish. It was apparently written in a hurry and the story does have a breakneck feel to it. Characterful expressions burst from its pages; the syncopated, lively dialogue of the black people of the day is lush and gorgeous to read. But please don't accept my effusive review as a recommendation. This book is not a generic crowd-pl Zora Neale Hurston was born to write. This 1930s deeply human story of one indefatigable black woman's life, loves and catastrophes dazzled and delighted me from start to finish. It was apparently written in a hurry and the story does have a breakneck feel to it. Characterful expressions burst from its pages; the syncopated, lively dialogue of the black people of the day is lush and gorgeous to read. But please don't accept my effusive review as a recommendation. This book is not a generic crowd-pleaser and won't suit all tastes. It is dialogue heavy and at times I felt I was reading a theatre script, rather than a novel. I've seen that some readers weren't able to get to grips with the spoken vernacular, which surprises me no end. This white English/Irish guy had no problem whatsoever and, in fact, the person whose review inspired me to read this (@Lisa) is Swedish and she clearly had no difficulty either! Lisa's review For me, the writing was irresistible. I do however think it wouldn't be for everyone.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Beverly

    Talking about what a revelation this book was to me with a girlfriend, I told her this is essentially a feminist novel that was published in 1937. Gone With the Wind was published in 1936, so this was what shook me to my core. Here is Thurston with her main character, Janie, not content with what others have decided for her; she will live her life on her own terms and decide for herself. It is truly a modern idea. Unlike Gone With the Wind (which I hated), in which all the black people are depic Talking about what a revelation this book was to me with a girlfriend, I told her this is essentially a feminist novel that was published in 1937. Gone With the Wind was published in 1936, so this was what shook me to my core. Here is Thurston with her main character, Janie, not content with what others have decided for her; she will live her life on her own terms and decide for herself. It is truly a modern idea. Unlike Gone With the Wind (which I hated), in which all the black people are depicted as stereotypes, either stupid or bestial or so dependent on their white owners to tell them what to do and can't live without an overseer. Thurston writing in the 30s too, sees a black woman as a human being: she is not content to let her granny or her husband live her life, she "must" live it herself. I found the novel very refreshing, like taking a cool shower. There is one thing that Janie allows her lover to do that is horrible, but it is her life and she makes bad decisions sometimes, as do we all. Her lover fully redeems himself by the end of the novel which is a sad ending and one I didnt see coming, even though the signs were there. It reminded me of The Color Purple, which I loved and was also astounded by. Here is a passage I loved, "When God had made The Man, he made him out of stuff that sung all the time and glittered all over. Then after that some angels got jealous and chopped him into millions of pieces, but still he glittered and hummed. So they beat him down to nothing but sparks but each little spark had a shine and a song. So they covered each one over with mud. And the lonesomeness in the sparks made them hunt for one another, but the mud is deaf and dumb. Like all the other tumbling mud-balls, Janie had tried to show her shine."

  19. 5 out of 5

    Chloe

    You know those books that sit on your shelf and mock you for being too hesitant to pick them up? We all have them. They sit there, perched on the edge of the shelf like hooligans on a stoop tossing out insults to passersby and just daring them to pick them up and give 'em a spin. For me, Their Eyes Were Watching God was the ringleader of my abusive books. It would yell vicious things at me as I sat near the shelf and once, in collusion with my long-time archenemy gravity, contrived to whap me up You know those books that sit on your shelf and mock you for being too hesitant to pick them up? We all have them. They sit there, perched on the edge of the shelf like hooligans on a stoop tossing out insults to passersby and just daring them to pick them up and give 'em a spin. For me, Their Eyes Were Watching God was the ringleader of my abusive books. It would yell vicious things at me as I sat near the shelf and once, in collusion with my long-time archenemy gravity, contrived to whap me upside the head. Suffice to say, I was intimidated. Yet we all have to face our fears at some time and February seemed like the right time for me. Looking back on my years-long avoidance of this book, I can't help but think that I make some truly awful decisions. This is one of the most lyrically beautiful books that I have ever read and, at the same time, one of the most ground-breaking portraits of an independent woman's voice that I've ever come across. Neale Hurston's book is simultaneously a work of art and a strong declaration of independence for the entire female gender. Janie is a woman who first tries to conform herself to the molds that she has been taught in the form of two very dissatisfying marriages to men who feel compelled to, after heaping praise upon her for her independent spirit, snuff it completely out. After the death of her second husband, Janie chucks social propriety out the window and listens instead to that niggling voice inside that dares her to dream of a better life, even if the person she wants to share that life with is far beneath her on the limiting rungs of social positioning. Instead this man, the charming and appreciative Tea Cake, is a rascal who cares more about enjoying the everyday moments of life than he does for climbing to the top of the dung heap. His very lack of sober seriousness is what draws Janie to him, his living example proof of what is possible for her. Hurston's style is beautiful, her poetic prose balanced perfectly with spot-on accurate renderings of the rural Southern dialect. J.D. Salinger, who I hold in the absolute highest esteem when it comes to rating dialogue, is put to shame by Hurston's ability to craft the slow drawl and missing consonants in her characters' speech. Reading it can not help but conjure each person's voice within your head so that, after a while, it's as though you're listening to a radio telecast rather than reading a book.

  20. 5 out of 5

    LeAnne

    I am not African American, and no matter what genuine empathy is in my heart, there is no way a white woman can truly understand the life experiences and the collective family experiences of my girlfriends and guy friends who are in fact black. But reading this classic by Zora Hurston let me pretend to do so for a while. Wow, what a book! When Ms. Hurston, born in 1891 ,wrote this, she had already attended Howard University and Barnard College studying anthropology and attended Columbia for gradu I am not African American, and no matter what genuine empathy is in my heart, there is no way a white woman can truly understand the life experiences and the collective family experiences of my girlfriends and guy friends who are in fact black. But reading this classic by Zora Hurston let me pretend to do so for a while. Wow, what a book! When Ms. Hurston, born in 1891 ,wrote this, she had already attended Howard University and Barnard College studying anthropology and attended Columbia for graduate studies in the field. She also taught for some years at North Carolina College for Negroes. She was on the staff of a little place called THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS too. Long story short, for a woman born before the turn of the century, she was amazing. For a woman of color to break through these sorts of barriers during this time in American history? Incredible. Ms Hurston's mom and dad, both former slaves, had to be the proudest parents ever. So when she wrote this story about Janie, granddaughter of a former slave, we might expect some huge accomplishments written about this main character. But Ms. Hurston - always the anthropologist - wrote Janie's story in rural Florida. Although the novel takes place nearly 100 years ago, I can see her description of certain people fitting those living around us today: "People ugly from ignorance and broken from being poor... Much of Janie's tale is set in a little town that was founded by, organized by, and lived in by people of color. The town is real, and it is where the author grew up. I grew up in South Florida myself and had no idea! My ignorance of history is shameful. As to the story, we see Janie's life plotted out for her by the grandmother who loves her and wants her protected. But when that protection means being married off to an older man, one Janie does not love but who owns plenty of property, she initially acquiesces but still pines for the feeling of deep love. As a young girl, she lies under a pear tree one spring day smelling the sweet, heady perfume of its blossoms and sees drowsy bees, laden with pollen, as they lumber between the pistols and stamens, nuzzling into the petals. For the rest of her days, this image will define love for Janie. When opportunity arrives by chance to offer her a shot at deep love, Janie does not hesitate, and she goes. Leaves. Sets out for parts unknown, only with those blossoms and nectar to sustain her. I'll skip the plot elements and forego a book report for you, but will comment that one thing that really surprised me was the introduction of a character called Mrs. Turner. She is the voice for, I suppose, a certain section of the black population who prided themselves in those days on their physically Caucasian-looking characteristics. Lighter skin, more aquiline profiles, smoother hair. Although at this section of the book, Janie is a very happily married woman, Mrs. Turner wants to introduce her brother to Janie, as he is as light skinned as she is, and she disregards Janie's husband Tea Cake because of his dark complexion. In real life, I've had conversations touching on this subject with friends who are African American, but it has made me squirm. But reading this book, by myself, allowed me to gawk openly and to wince. No matter how many personal stories my black friends have told me over the years- being shadowed by salespeople at the department store, getting shoddy service from waiters who were overly obsequious to white diners all around, being asked about inner city successes (this was directed to a co-worker friend who had grown up with more money than God - truly affluent - but because she was black, the men in the car with us assumed she had overcome some sort of ghetto nightmare), etc - there is no way for me to walk in their shoes. Thank you, Zora Hurston, for letting me pretend to do so for awhile this week. NOTE: unless you are a native Southerner, reading the text of this book might be a challenge. The author wrote dialogue colloquially and somewhat phonetically, just as was done in Wuthering Heights. I'm not just a Southerner but live in south Louisiana where the "yat" accent is commonplace, so after about five pages, it was pretty easy for me to follow. It was the same with me for Wuthering Heights (Irish grandparents and a Scottish step-dad). That said, if reading vernacular that is unfamiliar can cause you to toss the book aside, please check out the FREE AUDIO of this book from Hoopla (you need a library card). Ruby Dee is the narrator, and oh-my-gawd is the audio amazing. If you want to read a classic but are as lazy as I can sometimes be, let Ruby Dee climb into your ears and Zora Hurston crawl into your heart. No bees or blossoms required.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Perry

    A Classic That Hasn't Finished Saying What It Has to Say Seeing Within You More than Before Their Eyes Were Watching God should be more highly revered as an American classic. Italo Calvino defined a "classic" as "a book that has never finished saying what it has to say.” The current racial turmoil brewing in the United States today leaves no doubt that this Zora Neale Hurston classic still hasn't finished saying what it has to say. Ms. Hurston's decision to attain a verisimilitude by using the l A Classic That Hasn't Finished Saying What It Has to Say Seeing Within You More than Before Their Eyes Were Watching God should be more highly revered as an American classic. Italo Calvino defined a "classic" as "a book that has never finished saying what it has to say.” The current racial turmoil brewing in the United States today leaves no doubt that this Zora Neale Hurston classic still hasn't finished saying what it has to say. Ms. Hurston's decision to attain a verisimilitude by using the lively vernacular of African-Americans in the early 1900s American South transformed this book from a great novel to the lofty status, attributed to very few in the Western Canon, of "transcendent." Reading her piercing, prismatic prose is as soothing and soulful as listening to Etta James sing the blues to the rhythm and flow of Janie Crawford's journey from a pubescent teen given away by her grandmother as wife to an old man (after being caught kissing a boy) to a 17-year-old young lady being swept away by a dapper, fast-talking traveling salesman who, after marriage, became an abusive, chauvinistic husband, and then to a mid-to-late 30s widow finding love, passion and zeal for life in a man named "Teacake," more than a decade her junior. Toward journey's end, Ms. Hurston brews up and heaves at us a hellish hurricane crossing south-central Florida, and breaching the banks of Lake Okeechobee. The passage from which the book's name was derived is both profound and symbolic in describing the African-American denizens of central Florida in the wrath of the hurricane: “It is so easy to be hopeful in the daytime when you can see the things you wish on. But it was night, it stayed night. Night was striding across nothingness with the whole round world in his hands . . . They sat in company with the others in other shanties, their eyes straining against cruel walls and their souls asking if He meant to measure their puny might against His. They seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were watching God.” Another reason for this novel's transcendence is its place in embedding Ms. Hurston in United States history as a (if not the) pioneer in speaking up for, and celebrating the unique voice of, African-American women, especially in the South. Hurston adroitly conveyed her message in this novel that these women were oppressed not only by whites but also others in their own segregated communities. Perhaps most telling of all to the novel's place among classic social novels was the mainstream's rejection of the novel after its publication in 1937 because it did not play its part in "racial uplift". I also rejoice in this novel's importance in showing how first-rate fictional narrative, honest and heartfelt, is not only creative art in its highest form but can also be a potent agent for change across the broader spectrum and one person at a time. A noted publisher/editor at The New Yorker observed that in reading a classic "you do not see in the book more than you did before, [but] more in you than there was before." One of the greatest American novels. Period.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Alisa

    I hate, hate hated this book, and I really can't explain WHY very well, but I'll try. It was well written, the metaphors, etc were good (I read it for an English class so I know ALL about the metaphors), the characters were well rounded, it IS a really fine example of Hurston's work. What I hated was the forward in the particular version I read. It was about a conference of women who loved the book or something, and one lady just went on and on how Janie is a strong female character, and somethin I hate, hate hated this book, and I really can't explain WHY very well, but I'll try. It was well written, the metaphors, etc were good (I read it for an English class so I know ALL about the metaphors), the characters were well rounded, it IS a really fine example of Hurston's work. What I hated was the forward in the particular version I read. It was about a conference of women who loved the book or something, and one lady just went on and on how Janie is a strong female character, and something about how the Tea Cakes of the world weren't prepared for them. So, after reading this forward, I went into the book hoping for someone who was this amazing pillar of strength, not some anti man disestablishment type of strength, but someone who at least stood up for themselves. I understand how her strength can be perceived. However from my point of view she was someone who relied heavily on the men around her, never really stood up for herself, and was just lost most of the time. reading this was like watching the idiot babysitter go in to the basement when you KNOW the scary monster is down there. She made decision after decision leaving me thinking...why, why is this woman seen as strong? edit: teacup = Tea Cake, obviously I did not pay attention to the man's name.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Lawyer

    Their Eyes Were Watching God: Zora Neale Hurston's Novel of an Independent Woman "Dat's all right, Pheoby, tell 'em. Dey gointuh make 'miration 'cause mah love didn't work lak they love, if dey ever had any. Then you must tell 'em dat love ain't somethin' lak uh grindstone dat's de same thing everywhere and do de same thing tuh everything it touch. Love is lak de sea. It's uh movin' thing, but still and all, it takes its shape from de shore it meets, and it's different with every shore." "Lawd!" P Their Eyes Were Watching God: Zora Neale Hurston's Novel of an Independent Woman "Dat's all right, Pheoby, tell 'em. Dey gointuh make 'miration 'cause mah love didn't work lak they love, if dey ever had any. Then you must tell 'em dat love ain't somethin' lak uh grindstone dat's de same thing everywhere and do de same thing tuh everything it touch. Love is lak de sea. It's uh movin' thing, but still and all, it takes its shape from de shore it meets, and it's different with every shore." "Lawd!" Phoeby breathed out heavily, "Ah done growed ten feet higher from jus' listenin' tuh you, Janie. Ah ain't satisfied wid mahself no mo...Nobody better not criticize yuh in mah hearin'." I express my gratitude to Members of the goodreads group "On the Southern Literary Trail" for having made Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston novel one of our reads for December, 2012. A number of readers have indicated they read this novel at least once a year. It is highly probable that I will join their ranks. For it has already joined my list of favorite books. Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) Zora Neale Hurstonpublished Their Eyes Were Watching God in 1937. Consider it a marvel for its time. For it is clearly the first feminist literature by a black author about a woman in search of herself, her voice, and love on her own terms. Their Eyes Were Watching God, First Ed., J.B. Lippincott, 1937 Janie Crawford is Hurston's protagonist. Her road to independence is a difficult one. At the age of thirteen, she recognizes the attraction of the opposite sex for the first time. However, her grandmother warns her that sex is a trap for a black woman and only a temporary pleasure. Love, Nanny says, is "de very prong all us black women gits hung on. Dis love! Dat's just whut's got us uh pulln' and uh haulin' and sweatin' and doin' from can't see in de mornin' till can't see at night." To Janie's horror, Nanny has arranged a marriage to for Janie to Logan Killick, a farmer with a home and sixty acres of land. To Nanny, who had been a slave, Killick represents security for her granddaughter, who was a child of rape. Nanny's daughter had been raped by her school teacher, lost herself in a bottle and disappeared. To Nanny, Killick is Janie's ticket to rocking on the porch while Killick provides for her. Janie assents to her Nanny's wishes. Killick, at first, does cater to his young bride. She is a beauty, with thick hair that hangs down her back. Her breasts, buttocks, and legs would attract any man's attention. However, Killick prefers a helpmate rather than a bedmate. He tells Janie he is going to leave home for a day to buy a mule. He intends to put Janie behind a plow to help him plow his land. Enter Jody Stark, a dapperly dressed man, big, handsome, and carrying the promise of sexual romance. He would never put Janie behind a plow. She is a woman to be waited upon. Stark lures her to leave Killick and marry him, also tempting her with travel to Eatonville, Florida, a town built by and for black people. Janie did not consider Stark her ideal, thinking ""he did not represent sun-up and pollen and blooming trees, but he spoke for far horizon. He spoke for change and chance." Eatonville, Orange Co. Florida, was the first town founded by blacks following the Emancipation in 1863. It was incorporated in 1887. Zora Neale Hurston grew up there. Only after Janie has married Stark does she consider the eroticism of their relationship in the bedroom, believing "from now on until death she was going to have flower dust and springtime sprinkled over everything. A bee for her bloom". Stark becomes a store owner, buys additional acreage for the town and is ultimately elected mayor. He depends on Janie to operate the store while he politics around town. But he does not expect her to have a share of the political podium. Worse, he becomes jealous of Janie after he sees a constituent reach out to softly touch the braid of hair hanging down her back, of which Janie is not even aware. Thereafter, Jody orders Janie that she must conceal her hair under a head rag in public. Nor is she to speak publicly on the issues he deals with as mayor. There is no more flower dust or springtime sprinkled over everything. There is no bee for her bloom. She is only freed by Jody's death from kidney failure, a problem he sought to treat through an herb doctor although Janie had sought a medical doctor for him. Janie is left a wealthy widow. Janie finds that flower dust and springtime over everything with Tea Cake, a man twelve years younger than her. However, time has been kind to Janie Crawford Killick Stark. Tea Cake Woods tells her that her age makes no difference to him, that she is the only woman for him and for her he will give her the keys to the kingdom. Tea Cake is the charmer, the joker, the musician, the blues singer, and the wandering gambler. He is Janie's route to adventure. She is his willing companion every step. When he proposes they head south to the Glades to grow vegetables, Janie wants nothing more. Lake Okechobee and the Glades But even Tea Cake is subject to jealousy when it comes to Janie's beauty. The Turners' have a restaurant in the Glades. Mrs. Turner, a light skinned black, is drawn to Janie for her light complexion. She scorns Tea Cake for being too black and offers to introduce her brother to Janie. Janie's not interested. But when Tea Cake gets word that Mrs. Turner is up to introducing someone to take his Janie away from him, he beats her, where the marks show. He frankly admits she had done nothing, but it was necessary that others, especially the Turner's knew he had control of the situation. Hurston's novel builds to a tempestuous climax as a hurricane approaches the Glades. The bean crop is coming in. The pay is $8.00 a day. Tea Cake says they would be fools to leave. They ignore the lines of Seminole Indians walking to the east away from Lake Okechobee. I will only say that Hurston takes her title from the fact that those who remained in the face of the hurricane, listening to the winds swirling around their farmers' shacks were watching to see if their walls and roofs would withstand the force of God. No spoilers here. This is a book that you have to read. Ironically, Hurston's magnificent novel was rejected by literary critics, particularly those male members of the Harlem Renaissance. The most stinging criticism came from Richard Wright who claimed Hurston had created a work which portrayed blacks in a manner to allow whites to laugh at them, particularly using realistic black idiomatic dialog. Neither Wright or his contemporary male authors recognized Hurston's accomplishment of portraying one woman's journey to independence. Perhaps that aim was no more important to them than it was and remains for many men. During her career Hurston obtained two Guggenheim Fellowships and produced additional novels Jonah's Gourd Vine, Moses, Man of the Mountainand works of black folkways: Mules and Men, and Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica. She also published her autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Road. Zorah Hurston fell into obscurity by 1950. At the time her last short story was published, she was working as a maid. She worked at menial jobs, and as a substitute teacher. Ultimately she was drawing welfare benefits when she suffered a stroke and was placed in the St. Lucie County Welfare Home. She died January 28, 1960, and was buried in an unmarked grave in the Garden of Heavenly Rest. Alice Walker began teaching "Their Eyes Were Watching God" in her classes in 1971. In 1973, with the help of a colleague, Walker discovered Zorah Hurston's grave and had a monument erected. Zorah Neale Hurston's final resting place "“Two things everybody's got tuh do fuh theyselves. They got tuh go tuh God, and they got tuh find out about livin' fuh theyselves.” Highest possible recommendation. Also, see Jeff Keeten's and Steve Kendall's fine reviews at http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/... and http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/... respectively

  24. 4 out of 5

    بثينة العيسى

    العنصرية منظومة، بنية لها قوانينها الخاصة، وهذا الكتاب ينطلق من أعماق هذه البنية ويقشر طبقاتها؛ عنصرية الأسود ضد الأسود، عنصرية الأسود ضد نفسه، عنصرية الرجل ضد المرأة. عنصرية الملونين ضد السود.. أعتقد بأن المؤلفة تعمدت ألا تضمن الرواية نماذج "سيئة" للبيض لكي تشرح، ببساطة، أن الأمر لا يقتضي أن تمسك سوطًا في الحقول لكي تكون عنصريًا. يكفي أن تخضع لهذه المنظومة بكل قوانينها الفعالة إلى درجة الوصول بالسود إلى كره الذات. أحببتُ اللغة. الرواية تبدو محكية أكثر منها مكتوبة، لذا فهي تشبه حوارًا يدور بين ام العنصرية منظومة، بنية لها قوانينها الخاصة، وهذا الكتاب ينطلق من أعماق هذه البنية ويقشر طبقاتها؛ عنصرية الأسود ضد الأسود، عنصرية الأسود ضد نفسه، عنصرية الرجل ضد المرأة. عنصرية الملونين ضد السود.. أعتقد بأن المؤلفة تعمدت ألا تضمن الرواية نماذج "سيئة" للبيض لكي تشرح، ببساطة، أن الأمر لا يقتضي أن تمسك سوطًا في الحقول لكي تكون عنصريًا. يكفي أن تخضع لهذه المنظومة بكل قوانينها الفعالة إلى درجة الوصول بالسود إلى كره الذات. أحببتُ اللغة. الرواية تبدو محكية أكثر منها مكتوبة، لذا فهي تشبه حوارًا يدور بين امرأتين في مطبخ. والحقيقة أن هذا ما كانته. قراءة ممتعة.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Hugh

    I'll start by thanking Zadie Smith - her introduction to this edition is also the first essay in her collection Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays, which I read earlier this year. Hurston was not talked about when I was at school and I knew nothing of her or this book before reading the essay, but it was enough to persuade me that I had to read the book. Smith says "There is no novel I love more", and that kind of hyperbole creates very high expectations, but within a few pages I was drawn in t I'll start by thanking Zadie Smith - her introduction to this edition is also the first essay in her collection Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays, which I read earlier this year. Hurston was not talked about when I was at school and I knew nothing of her or this book before reading the essay, but it was enough to persuade me that I had to read the book. Smith says "There is no novel I love more", and that kind of hyperbole creates very high expectations, but within a few pages I was drawn in to Hurston's world, with its faithful depictions of the lives, speech patterns, loves, hopes and expectations of a rural poor black cast. Hurston's heroine Janie is brilliantly realised, and her story is captivating, inspiring and ultimately heartbreaking.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Cathrine ☯️

    4★ “Uh woman by herself is uh pitiful thing,” she was told over and over again. “Dey needs aid and assistance. God never meant ‘em tuh try tuh stand by theirselves.” But our protagonist Janie Crawford is determined to “find out about livin’ fuh [herself]." After reading the two forewords explaining the literary history of this novel, and upon completion, I have come to regard this as the little book that could. —After publication it was out of print for 30 years. —Dismissed by the male literary est 4★ “Uh woman by herself is uh pitiful thing,” she was told over and over again. “Dey needs aid and assistance. God never meant ‘em tuh try tuh stand by theirselves.” But our protagonist Janie Crawford is determined to “find out about livin’ fuh [herself]." After reading the two forewords explaining the literary history of this novel, and upon completion, I have come to regard this as the little book that could. —After publication it was out of print for 30 years. —Dismissed by the male literary establishment. —Harshest criticism coming from black male critics: “No theme, no message, no thought.” —Out of circulation for a second time and brought back into print after petitioning. In her opening comments Mary Helen Washington says she “loved it because it was about a woman who wasn’t pathetic, wasn’t a tragic mulatto, who defied everything that was expected of her, who went off with a man without bothering to divorce the one she left and wasn’t broken, crushed, and then run down.” I can’t decide if it would be better to read these forewords afterwards. They give a lot away and prime the reader. I knew nothing about this story going in and all the high praise set me up with high expectations (many of which were met). I would have loved to be in on the Alice Walker class at Wellesley in the 70s when she was teaching the novel. Some phrase meanings were not altogether clear to me and at times the vernacular was a bit demanding and made for slower paced reading, yet was enticing and lovely throughout. I think an audio book version would be a great way to go on this one. Written by a black woman in the 30s, a time when women of any color would be hard pressed to find a heroine like Janie in literature, let alone write her, it is quite a remarkable work and an ever present reminder that “you cannot keep a good woman down.” My Afterwards: I watched the film starring Halle Barry. It was well done and true to the book with minor changes. Elements were left out, others over-dramatized. Some of the richer and more controversial black dialog is missing (to make it more appealing perhaps?), and Tea Cake’s darker side was omitted (view spoiler)[he doesn’t beat Janie and itsn't the dark black color that her friends objected to (hide spoiler)] . Overall a more polished, romanticized, and easier to follow version.

  27. 5 out of 5

    ·Karen·

    Oh dear, I was just about to start my review by saying how I enjoyed the richness of the language in this novel until my GR friend Michele provided me with this quote from the Encyclopedia of African American Women: --White reviewers, often ignorant of black culture, praised the richness of her language but misunderstood her work and characterized it as simple and unpretentious. Does that condemn me as a white person who is ignorant of black culture? Well probably yes, it does, because surely the Oh dear, I was just about to start my review by saying how I enjoyed the richness of the language in this novel until my GR friend Michele provided me with this quote from the Encyclopedia of African American Women: --White reviewers, often ignorant of black culture, praised the richness of her language but misunderstood her work and characterized it as simple and unpretentious. Does that condemn me as a white person who is ignorant of black culture? Well probably yes, it does, because surely the language would never strike me as richly expressive if those figures of speech were as familiar to me as my own skin. But I do hope I can be exonerated of the second crime: I would certainly not consider this work to be simple and unpretentious, but rather complex, redolent with symbolism, and encompassing more than just one woman's journey to self-determination. The story of the novel's reception is just as fascinating as the tale within: Hurston was buried in an unmarked grave when she died in 1960. The chronology at the back of my version remarks drily: August 1973 Alice Walker discovers and marks Hurston's grave. A symbolic act if ever there was one. Walker marked Hurston out for history to remember, and for history to illustrate how history's attitude to the black narrative and the feminine narrative has changed.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    This is a wonderful novel and I would recommend it. The speech is not easy to follow initially, but is easy to get the hang of if you persist and is well worth the effort. The story of the life and loves of Janie Crawford; told in her own words and in a strong clear voice. It has had a mixed history in terms of reviews. Ralph Ellison criticised its “calculated burlesque” and others regarded it as not being serious fiction. Then there was the debate about racial uplift and improving image; an appr This is a wonderful novel and I would recommend it. The speech is not easy to follow initially, but is easy to get the hang of if you persist and is well worth the effort. The story of the life and loves of Janie Crawford; told in her own words and in a strong clear voice. It has had a mixed history in terms of reviews. Ralph Ellison criticised its “calculated burlesque” and others regarded it as not being serious fiction. Then there was the debate about racial uplift and improving image; an approach Hurston rejected. She presented rounded characters with faults and desires and aspirations. Male authors like Ellison and Powers did not seem to “get it” initially; being doubtful it was serious fiction. But that it certainly is. There are autobiographical elements and Hurston had also done her research when she collected folk songs and tales a decade before. The cadences in her writing show she knew what she was about. It is a shame that Hurston did not live long enough to see how appreciated her work would be. This one has been reviewed to death and I’ve nothing new to add; but the story carried me along and I cared about what happened to Janie. The men came and went. Teacake, the best of them, stood out because he didn’t beat her too often! That may be a little simplistic, but for Janie the price of love was clearly, at times, painful. However painful, this is a celebration of life and love/loves against the odds. I have the virago version with a brilliant introduction by Zadie Smith and I think Hurston’s novel has finally found its place in the hearts of readers and the acclaim it deserves.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    This book was so powerful and so beautiful. I will be haunted by Janie and Tea Cake for awhile. I first started this in print and was struggling to get into it because I was having trouble with the dialect. It made me feel like I was just learning to read and I found I was concentrating more on the words than the story but about 25 pages in I switched to the audible version narrated by Ruby Dee and oh my gosh she was amazing. She brought this story to life for me in ways the printed book never c This book was so powerful and so beautiful. I will be haunted by Janie and Tea Cake for awhile. I first started this in print and was struggling to get into it because I was having trouble with the dialect. It made me feel like I was just learning to read and I found I was concentrating more on the words than the story but about 25 pages in I switched to the audible version narrated by Ruby Dee and oh my gosh she was amazing. She brought this story to life for me in ways the printed book never could have. She deserved to win the audie for this job. Highly recommend this!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Aubrey

    4.5/5 She had been getting ready for her great journey to the horizons in search of people; it was important to all the world that she should find them and they find her. But she had been whipped like a cur dog, and run off down a back road after things. What do you live for? Love? Security? Money? Hope? There's something to said for any of them in every combination with one another, the melding usually a three of the four legs of a stool that is never quite stable. A great deal of literature is 4.5/5 She had been getting ready for her great journey to the horizons in search of people; it was important to all the world that she should find them and they find her. But she had been whipped like a cur dog, and run off down a back road after things. What do you live for? Love? Security? Money? Hope? There's something to said for any of them in every combination with one another, the melding usually a three of the four legs of a stool that is never quite stable. A great deal of literature is generated by that shakiness, that unsturdy swaying as time sends the legs protruding and withdrawing, thinning and thickening as one attempts to keep their balance in the constant effort to reach. A great deal of debate is generated by those variables in flux, questions of what is worthy of thought, form, and the crying out of the body, mind, and soul. Do you know what should always be given priority in literature all day, every day, factoring in all the issues of both reality and culture, of faith and physical function? I certainly don't. Not even my love of social justice blinds me to the strength of Hurston's beliefs, her desire to see black literature in US reflecting more than the all too consuming racism. Her effort to write with the goal of "racial health—a sense of black people as complete, complex, undiminished human beings, a sense that is lacking in so much black writing in literature", as so wonderfully stated by Alice Walker. She got nothing from Jody except what money could buy, and she was giving away what she didn't value. I loved Native Son, I'm well aware of Trayvon Martin and the far too many others like him, I appreciate Richard Wright for writing on such a powerful issue that affects the US to this day, but I hate him for his decrying of Hurston and all that she wrote for. He is Jody, capable of great things with his ideas of equality, progress, and men, writer of brilliant sociological treatises and powerful indictments of racism at the expense of only a few 'girlfriends in a refrigerator.' Idealistic as it is to argue for that 'only', foolish as it is to dream beyond the Titan of whites and their institutional oppression of blacks, selfish as it that a story grants love and financial stability to a black woman, the unlikeliest of unlikelihoods, here we are. "They's mighty particular how dese dead folks goes tuh judgment," Tea Cake observed to the man working next to him."Look lak dey think God don't know nothin' 'bout de Jim Crow law." While racism is factored into the book, it is not allowed to hollow out the heart and reign in the center of things. Here, it is only a single factor in the lives of black people, replete with life, love, every facet of culture from dialect to public life. Perhaps more suspension of disbelief is required for reading such a story where hope is not immediately shackled to threat and made to understand who is king. Perhaps it is the lack of a king that is the most unsettling, his grandiose ideals of money always before love turned on its head by the queen with her own views of a life worth living. Equal rights and financial stability are all very well, but the patriarchy is not the highest one should be hoping for. "...Dat's whut she wanted for me—don't keer whut it cost. Git up on uh high chair and sit dere. She didn't have time tuh think what tuh do after you got up on de stool uh do nothin'. De object wuz tuh git dere. So Ah got up on de high school lak she told me, but Pheoby, Ah done nearly languished tuh death up dere. Ah felt like de world wuz cryin' extry and Ah ain't read de common news yet." "Maybe so, Janie. Still and all Ah'd love tuh experience it for just one year. It look lak heben tuh me from where Ah'm at." "Ah reckon so." Here's to Zora Neale Hurston for going against the flow. Here's to Alice Walker who brought her back to the seat of honor she so richly deserves. Here's to authors seeing the value in their beliefs without stomping on those of others. Here's to a book that not only lives, but celebrates.

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