Alex's Reviews > Their Eyes Were Watching God

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
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Mar 04, 15

bookshelves: reading-through-history, 2012, top-100, rth-lifetime
Read from July 22 to 23, 2012

So I've been reading through the Harlem Renaissance lately, that period between 1920 and 1940 that had this explosion of black literature. I read Allain Locke's The New Nego, a compilation with guys like Langston Hughes and Jean Toomer - great stuff. Really smart. And I read Jean Toomer's Cane, the Harlem Renaissance's entry into the modernist novel: really ambitious, fractured, weird, brilliant but not entirely successful. I read Nella Larsen's Quicksand: great plot, great characters, not always the most elegant writing. I read George Schuyler's Black No More, a satire about a guy who develops a serum that turns black people white. Effective satire, fun to read...not quite good enough to make it into the canon.

And then I read Their Eyes Were Watching God, and it was just amazing. Ambiguous, shifty, deep, smart, perfectly put together.

Hurston fought with Richard Wright about the point of the Harlem Renaissance. He said black authors have to engage with white people, with the fight for equality. (And he hated this book.) Hurston is defiantly unconcerned with white people: this is a book about black people. Today it seems silly that anyone would question that, but at the time she came under fire, and her book sank out of sight for 30 years until Alice Walker went and dove down and got it.

Hurston was an anthropologist, she collected and studied black folklore, and she weaves it into this book in a way that adds to and comments on the story - and it's also wicked entertaining. This is the earliest mention I know of The Dozens, the game of dissing that today comprises my entire relationship with most of my friends.

It's held up since then and it holds up now. Loads of people have attacked it as being a belated black entry into the canon for PC reasons. But why this and not those other books I mentioned above? This because it's better. It's wonderful. This is a book that stands up.

I was hanging out with this friend of mine tonight who I hadn't seen for a few years and she was like "Dude, you read sortof a weird amount of books so I can't really keep up on FB, but anything stand out for you over the past...years?" and I was like "Yeah, Their Eyes Were Watching God." This book is great.
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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by Casey (new) - added it

Casey Your comments on this are reminding me that I really, really want to read it!


Alex You should! It's a perfect novel.


message 3: by Ka (new)

Ka I was permanently put off this book by the excessive amount it was assigned to my children -- or was it just Abby? -- in high school and college. Like, having figured out that not all great literature was written by old white guys, they found this single other book so they could check off 'multicultural' for the curriculum.

Also, I don't like reading 'dialogue'.


Alex And there is a lot of dialogue. Tons of it. (Do you mean dialect? Because there's lots of dialogue in dialect.)

I read it once or twice in high school or college and remembered liking it, but nothing specific.

Anyway, it's totally awesome.


message 5: by Ka (new)

Ka Dialect dialogue


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