Book Review | Their Eyes Were Watching God by Nora Zeale Hurston


eyesI’ve read a lot of books I really loved this year but I don’t know that I’ve read anything that’s blown me away quite the way Their Eyes Were Watching God did. I know I’m more than a little late to the party but I’m glad I showed up, tardy or not, because this book is something special.

Certainly it’s a feminist book that, from my perspective, seems to do an incredible job detailing the African American experience in a certain place (the south) during a certain time (the depression). It’s also a book about class, about how even people who are marginalized by the majority break into their own subgroups. It’s the poor pitting against the poor and the wealthy pitting against the poor and Blacks pitting against other Blacks and so much destruction and sadness and so many roles women were supposed to play and . . . I don’t know, a real lack of freedom, all around.

I found myself thinking, “Man, I’m glad things have gotten better since then because this is rough. . . ” but of course that’s not entirely true. I mean, yes, things have gotten better but things certainly haven’t gotten good. I don’t know. My feelings about this book are big and hard to describe but this is a book that was written skillfully and powerfully and I’m glad I read.

Oh, also, a note about the language: There’s some dialect used throughout this book that may be difficult for some people to read. It was for me, and initially I’ll admit I found it cumbersome. But in the end I think the language was essential for me to understand these characters on their own terms. Why should they have to change their patterns of speech or vocabularies just to make me more comfortable? They shouldn’t and I’m glad they didn’t.

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