African American Literature,  Book Reviews,  FICTION,  FOUR STARS ****,  Women

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston **** (of 4)

Written in 1937, Hurston captures the lives of  post-slavery, southern African Americans battling to overcome poverty and profound segregation.  Janie, the story’s protagonist,  is married three times by forty.  The first two to black men insistent on domination.  Janie is an article of clothing meant to be silent and shown off.  Three times she runs off for a better man.  The last, Tea Cake, is as poor as the Florida muck he occasionally works picking beans.  But Tea Cake is a force of nature who insists that Janey also open herself to the elements of south Florida.  Forsaking class and respect, she becomes a human being.  The vernacular and characters Hurston chooses are so rich, complex, and authentic the story is still compelling literature seventy years later.