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Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale…

Their Eyes Were Watching God (original 1937; edition 1986)

by Zora Neale Hurston, Sherley Anne Williams (Afterword), Holly Eley (Introduction), Zadie Smith (Introduction)

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12,147201207 (3.97)1 / 688
Title:Their Eyes Were Watching God
Authors:Zora Neale Hurston
Other authors:Sherley Anne Williams (Afterword), Holly Eley (Introduction), Zadie Smith (Introduction)
Info:Virago Press (1986), Paperback, 297 pages
Collections:Your library

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Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (1937)

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    The Awakening by Kate Chopin (CGlanovsky)
    CGlanovsky: Strong female protagonist causes a stir in a male-dominated society by going after the things she wants.
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    Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: Kincaid and Hurston have each set their moving, character-driven novels in atmospheric, sunny settings -- the Caribbean, and Florida respectively. Both novels explore haunting truths about identity, society, friendship and love as an African-American female protagonist gains new self-awareness and respect for her experiences.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 198 (next | show all)
Few authors are like Hurston, who can move me with their words. Sentences with such emotion and structure that I stop and reread them like taking small bites of a delicious chocolate to make the flavor last longer on the tongue.

This is the story of Janie, who was married at age 16 and soon left her husband to follow another man, Joe Starks, to a town in West Florida populated solely by blacks. He wanted to be on the ground floor of a place where he could make something of himself. He did. He appointed himself mayor and built a store. Janie struggled with running the store but persevered. After his death she allowed the assistant to take over and luxuriated in a little freedom. Soon, she drew the attention of Tea Cake, a drifter, and set the town on its ear.

Her progression from small town girl, abandoned by her mother, raised by her grandmother, and growing to an independent and strong woman, was wonderful to watch. ( )
  mamzel | Jan 17, 2017 |
The metaphorical richness of Hurston's novel responds well to re-reading. This is not only a powerful portrayal of working-class black folk during the 1920s and 1930s, but also a beautiful romance and a story of the search for authenticity. ( )
  jalbacutler | Jan 10, 2017 |
in the afterword, henry louis gates basically calls this the first work of african american feminist fiction. so that's pretty awesome. and for that alone, this deserves a place as a classic text. i'd also think it deserves that distinction for its portrayal of black culture and living at the time, as she isn't writing for a white audience but for a black one, as gates says, "in a language both deeply personal and culturally specific."

our main character lives a life - after not living a life - that is hers, and is at odds with how other people think she should be living, but she does it anyway. i'd imagine that to be quite a feat in the 30's, as it's still difficult now, nearly 80 years later. and this black woman is finding and living her authentic self in both a male world and a white one, and she has to fight on both of those fronts.

hurston writes much of the book in dialect - all i remembered from my previous readings of this - and she does it very effectively. (in contrast to the book i read just before this, wuthering heights, where the small portions that are in dialect are virtually impossible to understand, and certainly not with ease of reading like here.) all in all, pretty much everything is well done. i think this would probably be a good book to discuss in a literature class, to give more appreciation for it, and to put it in better historical context. (i also give it a higher rating for its historical significance.)

"'Honey, de white man is de ruler of everything as fur as Ah been able tuh find out. Maybe it's some place way off in de ocean where de black man is in power, but we don't know nothin' but what we see. So de white man throw down de load and tell de nigger man tuh pick it up. He pick it up because he have to, but he don't tote it. He hand it to his womenfolks. De nigger woman is de mule uh de world so fur as Ah can see.'"

"Janie stood where he left her for unmeasured time and thought. She stood there until something fell off the shelf inside her. Then she went inside there to see what it was. It was her image of Jody tumbled down and shattered. But looking at it she saw that it never was the flesh and blood figure of her dreams. Just something she had grabbed up to drape her dreams over. In a way she turned her back upon the image where it lay and looked further. She had no more blossomy openings dusting pollen over her man, neither any glistening young fruit where the petals used to be. She found that she had a host of thoughts she had never expressed to him, and numerous emotions she had never let Jody know about. Things packed up and put away in parts of her heart where he could never find them. She was saving up feelings for some man she had never seen. She had an inside and an outside now and suddenly she knew how not to mix them."

"'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.'" ( )
  elisa.saphier | Dec 26, 2016 |
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. ( )
  bodachliath | Nov 15, 2016 |
It's a diction thing again. Hard to get into but interesting all the same. ( )
  s.pando | Nov 4, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Zora Neale Hurstonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Danticat, EdwidgeForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Diaz, DavidCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gates Jr., Henry LouisAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Washington, Mary HelenForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board.
When I first read Their Eyes Were Watching God, in the early 1970's, I devoured it as one devours the most satisfying romantic fiction - the kind that stems from reality and that can, in the broadest sense, become real for oneself. (Introduction)
I first encountered Zora Neale Hurston in an Afro-American literature course I took in graduate school. (Afterword)
This singing she heard that had nothing to do with her ears. the rose of the world was breathing out smell. It followed her through all her waking moments and caressed her in her sleep. It connected itself with other vaguely felt matters that had struck her outside observation and buried themselves in her flesh. Now they emerged and quested about her consciousness...

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 panting breath of the breeze when the inaudible voice of it all came to her.
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 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.
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 a marriage!
There is a basin in the mind where words float around on thought and thought on sound and sight. Then there is a depth of thought untouched by words, and deeper still a gulf of formless feelings untouched by thought.
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Book description
This is the story a girl who searches for the love she believes is true. Throughout her struggles she gains strength, independence, and wisdom. She overcomes the obstacles in her path to chase her dreams and they take her places she never thought she'd end up.

We read this book for class last year. And I don't like Janie at all. I think she's flighty, annoying, childish, and selfish. I don't like Janie but I do like what she learns throughout her life. I appreciate that she is determined and willing to fight for what she wants and believes.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0061120065, Paperback)

At the height of the Harlem Renaissance during the 1930s, Zora Neale Hurston was the preeminent black woman writer in the United States. She was a sometime-collaborator with Langston Hughes and a fierce rival of Richard Wright. Her stories appeared in major magazines, she consulted on Hollywood screenplays, and she penned four novels, an autobiography, countless essays, and two books on black mythology. Yet by the late 1950s, Hurston was living in obscurity, working as a maid in a Florida hotel. She died in 1960 in a Welfare home, was buried in an unmarked grave, and quickly faded from literary consciousness until 1975 when Alice Walker almost single-handedly revived interest in her work.

Of Hurston's fiction, Their Eyes Were Watching God is arguably the best-known and perhaps the most controversial. The novel follows the fortunes of Janie Crawford, a woman living in the black town of Eaton, Florida. Hurston sets up her characters and her locale in the first chapter, which, along with the last, acts as a framing device for the story of Janie's life. Unlike Wright and Ralph Ellison, Hurston does not write explicitly about black people in the context of a white world--a fact that earned her scathing criticism from the social realists--but she doesn't ignore the impact of black-white relations either:

It was the time for sitting on porches beside the road. It was the time to hear things and talk. These sitters had been tongueless, earless, eyeless conveniences all day long. Mules and other brutes had occupied their skins. But now, the sun and the bossman were gone, so the skins felt powerful and human. They became lords of sounds and lesser things. They passed nations through their mouths. They sat in judgment.
One person the citizens of Eaton are inclined to judge is Janie Crawford, who has married three men and been tried for the murder of one of them. Janie feels no compulsion to justify herself to the town, but she does explain herself to her friend, Phoeby, with the implicit understanding that Phoeby can "tell 'em what Ah say if you wants to. Dat's just de same as me 'cause mah tongue is in mah friend's mouf."

Hurston's use of dialect enraged other African American writers such as Wright, who accused her of pandering to white readers by giving them the black stereotypes they expected. Decades later, however, outrage has been replaced by admiration for her depictions of black life, and especially the lives of black women. In Their Eyes Were Watching God Zora Neale Hurston breathes humanity into both her men and women, and allows them to speak in their own voices. --Alix Wilber

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:31 -0400)

(see all 9 descriptions)

Meet the unforgettable Janie Crawford, an articulate African-American woman in the 1930s. Traces Janie's quest for identity, through three marriages, on a journey to her roots. When Janie Starks returns to her rural Florida home, her small black community is overwhelmed with curiosity about her relationship with a younger man.… (more)

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