Alex's Reviews > Their Eyes Were Watching God

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
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Jul 22, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: reading-through-history, 2012, top-100, rth-lifetime, harlem-renaissance

Much of the writing from the Harlem Renaissance is flawed. Jean Toomer's Cane is ambitious but flawed; other works like George Schuyler's brutal satire Black No More, and Home to Harlem by the poet Claude McKay are, honestly, interesting but minor. Nella Larsen is terrific, and Allain Locke's collection The New Negro is a terrific overview (and the one that started it all), but we're still short a definitive work.

Enter Their Eyes Were Watching God, which is a perfect novel. Ambiguous, shifty, deep, smart, perfectly put together.

Hurston fought with Richard Wright about the point of the Harlem Renaissance. (Wright wrote in the 40s, in what's sometimes called the second wave of the Harlem Renaissance, which is why I left him out of my original roundup. His books are great, although he sucks at ending them. FWIW, he was a socialist and Hurston was a conservative, so they had good reason to not get along.) Wright 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." It's that good.

Here is the definitive work of the Harlem Renaissance, and one of the best books I've ever read.
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Reading Progress

July 22, 2012 – Started Reading
July 22, 2012 – Shelved
July 23, 2012 – Shelved as: reading-through-history
July 23, 2012 – Shelved as: 2012
July 23, 2012 – Finished Reading
December 29, 2013 – Shelved as: top-100
January 2, 2015 – Shelved as: rth-lifetime
December 30, 2017 – Shelved as: harlem-renaissance

Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 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


Monica Alex!!! Once again we are in sync!! I loooooove this book. Picked it up on sale and randomly started reading it a few years back. It became an all time favorite!! Eeew I got gushy all over your awesome review!! 😉


Alex Yay! This is on the re-read list for this year; I'm looking forward to it.


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