BLM Book Fairies: a Book Review of Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

The fourth choice for BLM Book Fairies month is Zora Neale Hurston’s 1938 classic, which feels contemporary even today.

BLM Book Fairies recommended read: Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God

About the book:

Their Eyes Were Watching God, an American classic, is a luminous and haunting novel about Janie Crawford, a Southern black woman in the 1930s whose journey from a free-spirited girl to a woman of independence and substance has inspired writers and readers for close to seventy years.

This poetic, graceful love story, rooted in black folk traditions and steeped in mythic realism, celebrates, boldly and brilliantly, African-American culture and heritage. And in a powerful, mesmerizing narrative, it pays quiet tribute to a black woman, who, though constricted by the times, still demanded to be heard.

Originally published in 1937, Their Eyes Were Watching God met significant commercial but divided critical acclaim. Somewhat forgotten after her death, Zora Neale Hurston was rediscovered by a number of black authors in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and reintroduced to a greater readership by Alice Walker in her 1972 essay “In Search of Zora Neale Hurston,” written for Ms. magazine. Long out of print, the book was reissued after a petition was circulated at the Modern Language Association Convention in 1975, and nearly three decades later Their Eyes Were Watching God is considered a seminal novel of American fiction.

The first page of Their Eyes Were Watching God

A Book Fairy Review:

This book reads like a contemporary love story, in the way it describes Janie’s experiences with her partners throughout her life. To know that it was released for the first time in 1937 is actually quite jarring. While the theme is undoubtedly love, the novel also draws the landscape for the Black community in Orange County at that point in time. The characters reflect the nuances you would find in many communities, however they are, at least at first, always aiming to be similar to the nearby white communities – while creating their own independent town.

Hurston’s use of different styles of language for speech and prose meant that the reader is immediately drawn in, hearing the dialogue right away as if it was being spoken in the room. Later in the novel it’s hard to put down as a natural disaster hits and Janie has to navigate a terrifying landscape.

In essence, the novel is about finding your true love – and how, at least for Janie, it wasn’t a typical love story, and she went through so much unnecessary hardship on her journey.

Grab a copy of Their Eyes Were Watching God

You can find a copy of Zora Neale Hurston’s classic novel here on Hive Books or you can find a secondhand copy at World of Books.

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