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Their Eyes Were Watching God

3.87  ·  Rating Details ·  197,284 Ratings  ·  8,960 Reviews
When Janie, at sixteen, is caught kissing shiftless Johnny Taylor, her grandmother swiftly marries her off to an old man with sixty acres. Janie endures two stifling marriages before meeting the man of her dreams, who offers not diamonds, but a packet of flowering seeds ...

'For me, THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD is one of the very greatest American novels of the 20th century
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Paperback, 237 pages
Published May 30th 2006 by Harper Perennial Modern Classics (first published 1937)
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Beth This is a line in a dramatic scene in the story, but it also speaks to the way most of the characters didn't understand that the main character had…moreThis is a line in a dramatic scene in the story, but it also speaks to the way most of the characters didn't understand that the main character had claimed her place in the world as a young woman and her choices were made from a deeply spiritual place (although she wouldn't have said it that way.)(less)
Maureen Laney Native Son by Richard Wright might be a good option. It takes place in Chicago, not the south, but is the same general time period. And a great novel…moreNative Son by Richard Wright might be a good option. It takes place in Chicago, not the south, but is the same general time period. And a great novel regardless of how close it parallels this one!(less)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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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! :(
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
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Jeffrey Keeten
Dec 01, 2012 Jeffrey Keeten rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: southern
”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
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Fabian
Jun 24, 2013 Fabian rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
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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 ...more
AJ Griffin
Jul 03, 2007 AJ Griffin rated it liked it
Recommends it for: people interested in historical ebonics, I suppose
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
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Robin
Feb 23, 2017 Robin rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, 2017
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
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Tara
Jul 27, 2007 Tara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Melissa Rudder
Jan 24, 2008 Melissa Rudder rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Amanda
Jun 07, 2008 Amanda rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kick-ass, blog
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
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Dolors
Dec 30, 2013 Dolors rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Unheard voices which have much to say
Recommended to Dolors by: Steve Sckenda
Shelves: read-in-2014
“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
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Chloe
Feb 13, 2009 Chloe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Poets, Lovers and Screenwriters
Recommended to Chloe by: Sally
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 ...more
W Perry
May 08, 2016 W Perry rated it it was amazing
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
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Alisa
Oct 10, 2008 Alisa rated it did not like it
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
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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
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LeAnne
Nov 18, 2016 LeAnne rated it really liked it
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
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Diane S ☔
Aug 08, 2014 Diane S ☔ rated it really liked it
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. Huston'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
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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
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·Karen·
Mar 29, 2010 ·Karen· rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Hugh
Apr 14, 2016 Hugh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Paul
Sep 05, 2014 Paul rated it it was amazing
Shelves: african-american
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
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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
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Sidharth Vardhan

"There are years that ask questions and years that answer."

"It was hard to love a woman that always made you feel so wishful.


Hurston wrote this novel when efforts were being made by some sections of American whites to keep African Americans down using different methods. One such method was by writing fiction that portrayed colored people as racially inferior. In response to such fiction, a second movement was started which sought to show African Americans as perfect, law abiding citizens and
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Amanda
Dec 28, 2016 Amanda rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Beth F.
Except for the scene where Tea Cake combs Janie’s hair and is actually scratching out all her dandruff (ew), I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

I loved the writing style. I’m not terribly keen on poetry, per se, but Hurston’s prose felt poetic and many of the sentences beat out a steady rhythm I could almost hear, even reading silently to myself. The dialogue between the characters was it’s stark opposite, using a phonetic dialect commonly used by black people living in the south. Switching back an
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B0nnie
Jan 06, 2012 B0nnie rated it really liked it
Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board.
For some they come in with the tide.
For others they sail forever on the horizon,
Never out of sight,
Never landing
until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation,
His dreams mocked to death by Time.
That is the life of men.


So begins Their Eyes Were Watching God. It’s not actually written in verse - but it hardly seems to be prose either. The language is almost too lush and rich in metaphors to be merely a novel:

Death, that strange being
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☆ ĄňŊǡƂėƮĦ ☆ ŞŧŎŋė
4.5/5.
When I first heard that we were going to read this book, I wasn't sure what to think since it was written with a Southern dialect. As I read, though, my feelings for it changed. This books shows the growing up and life of Janie Crawford through her describing to her friend Phoebe years after it happened. This gave much more insight and you knew how she was feeling. In the beginning of the book she was hopeful and had many dreams to being happy and in love. Over the years though, her dreams
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Rachel León
(Honestly, I'd probably say 4-4.5 stars, but I'm rounding up because the prose is striking.)

I first read this novel over 10 years ago and decided it was time to reread it. I think I enjoyed it more this time around. Zora Neale Hurston is a beautiful writer and this book really is special.
Lata
Hard to get into at first, but once I got into the rhythm of the voices and the conversations, I could enjoy Janie's story. I like the way Janie starts, at 16, knowing there's more to life than what her grandmother thinks. Unfortunately, it takes many years and two husbands before Janie gets to really come alive and live.
The conversations and relationships are important, and it's pretty amazing the way Zora Neale Hurston uses the dialogue to beautifully illustrate her characters.
And I cried nea
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Kirstine
I imagine most writers, and people who want to be writers, have lines that haunt them. Lines someone else wrote that just made you go "Oh... Shit. Fuck.", because you knew you hadn't written them and would perhaps never write lines to match them.

I'm not a writer of fiction, but if I ever become one, these are the lines that will haunt me:

He looked like the love thoughts of women. [...] He was a glance from God.

Those are the lines I would strive, in both small and big ways, to overcome, to su
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  • Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston
  • Call It Sleep
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  • The Death of the Heart
  • Maud Martha
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Zora Neale Hurston was an American folklorist and author. In 1925, shortly before entering Barnard College, Hurston became one of the leaders of the literary renaissance happening in Harlem, producing the short-lived literary magazine Fire!! along with Langston Hughes and Wallace Thurman. This literary movement became the center of the Harlem Renaissance.

Hurston applied her Barnard ethnographic tr
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More about Zora Neale Hurston...

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“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” 3207 likes
“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.” 1248 likes
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