Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

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"Brutal experiences of slavery prompt sixteen-year-old Janie's maternal grandmother to marry her off to a respectable man. She hopes to insulate Janie from the potentially ruinous burdens she and other black women have had to bear. Yet Janie's fearless idealism leaves her feeling unfulfilled, and she abandons her emotionally stingy husband for Joe, an extravagant dreamer with whom she heads further south to build a thriving, all-black town out of little more than ambition and some roadside land. Joe elevates Janie's socio-economic status, but she becomes a trapping of his success rather than a respected partner. By the time of Joe's death, Janie is a middle-aged woman confident enough to withstand the town's persistent, speculative gossip and trust her instincts with Tea Cake, a mysterious young man. By the novel's end, though she has lost everything, Janie has realized her vision of love like a blossoming pear tree in the intense, volatile bond she and Tea Cake shared. 

 

Hurston was the mayor's daughter in America's first incorporated black town, where her social and political experience of African-American autonomy afforded a unique perspective on race. She eventually trained as an anthropologist, researching African-American folklore and oral culture in her native Florida. The dialogue in Their Eyes were Watching God is written primarily in the strong Southern African-American dialect (framed by a standard English narrative), the pronunciation, rhythm, and playfulness of which Hurston renders in rich detail using almost phonetic spelling. This celebration of colloquial language and life was harshly criticized by contemporaries such as Richard Wright, but Hurston is now regarded as a highly significant figure in African-American literature."

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  • Brian

    Score one for Anne Marie!

    October 31, 2011

15 went

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We just grab a coffee and speak French. Some people have been coming every week for months... it creates a kind of warmth to the group.

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