National Endowment of the Arts - The Big Read
Their Eyes Were Watching God

Their Eyes Were Watching God

by Zora Neale Hurston

The wind came back with triple fury, and put out the light for the last timeā€¦ They seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were watching God.


Zora Neale Hurston, 1934 (Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library)

To call Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God an "African American feminist classic" may be an accurate statement-it is certainly a frequent statement-but it is a misleadingly narrow and rather dull way to introduce a vibrant and achingly human novel. The syncopated beauty of Hurston's prose, her remarkable gift for comedy, the sheer visceral terror of the book's climax, all transcend any label that critics have tried to put on this remarkable work. First published amid controversy in 1937, then rescued from obscurity four decades later, the novel narrates Janie Crawford's ripening from a vibrant, but voiceless, teenage girl into a woman with her finger on the trigger of her own destiny. Although Hurston wrote the novel in only seven weeks, Their Eyes Were Watching God breathes and bleeds a whole life's worth of urgent experience.

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