52 in 52 Week 4: Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston


 I listened to the version narrated by Ruby Dee, and I can't imagine reading it any other way! Ruby Dee plays the grandmother in the 2005 TV movie. She is perfect. I had saved this one for my vacation in February, but I needed something to listen to during exercise this week, and once I started, I could not stop. 


I can't believe that this was left off The Well-Educated Mind reading list! The black fiction on that list is excellent, and I learned a ton, but this is by a woman who was ahead of her time in writing from the soul of a black woman. It is exquisitely written. I lingered on some of the words. Beautiful in every way. Here are two quotes by Janie, the main character in the story:

"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."


"two things everbody's got tuh do fuh theyselves
They got tuh go tuh God, 
and they got tuh find out about livin' fuh theyselves."

I became interested in reading this when I read this in Bold Spirit:Helga Estby's Forgotten Walk Across America:

The burning of her [Estby's] manuscript recalls how close the writings of others, such as African-American author Zora Neal Hurston, came to being destroyed. Destitute and no longer acclaimed in her old age, Hurston was considered of “little worth” at her death. When county workers came to clean out her house, they started to burn the clutter. One recalled that Zora was once a respected writer and, hoping there might be something of worth to augment county expenses, hosed down the fire just in time to recover her charred papers. 
It took more than fifty years and a seismic shift in appreciating the worth of African-American women writers before her acclaimed book, Their Eyes Were Watching God, was republished. Her writings proved pivotal for inspiring the next generation of African-American women writers, such as Alice Walker. Only recently, with the growing publications of multicultural stories available in schools and libraries, are all children in America able to read about the lives of others with their same ethnic heritage.
Hunt, Linda Lawrence (2007-12-18). Bold Spirit: Helga Estby's Forgotten Walk Across Victorian America (Kindle Locations 2558-2565). Anchor. Kindle Edition. 


"One of the greatest writers of our time"
— Toni Morrison

Their Eyes Were Watching God

The epic tale of Janie Crawford, whose quest for identity takes her on a journey during which she learns what love is, experiences life's joys and sorrows, and come home to herself in peace. Her passionate story prompted Alice Walker to say, "There is no book more important to me than this one."
When first published in 1937, this novel about a proud, independent black woman was generally dismissed by male reviewers. Out of print for almost thirty years, but since its reissue in paperback edition by the University of Illinois Press in 1978, Their Eyes Were Watching God has become the most widely read and highly acclaimed novel in the canon of African-American literature.
With haunting sympathy and piercing immediacy, Their Eyes Were Watching God tells the story of Janie Crawford's evolving selfhood through three marriages. Light-skinned, long-haired, dreamy as a child, Janie grows up expecting better treatment than she gets until she meets Tea Cake, a younger man who engages her heart and spirit in equal measure and gives her the chance to enjoy life without being a man's mule or adornment. Though Jaine's story does not end happily, it does draw to a satisfying conclusion. Janie is one black woman who doesn't have to live lost in sorrow, bitterness, fear, or foolish romantic dreams, instead Janie proclaims that she has done "two things everbody's got tuh do fuh theyselves. They got tuh go tuh God, and they got tuh find out about livin' fuh theyselves."
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