Their Eyes Were Watching God: or "Teacakes and Crumpets"
In the third installment of Deep Thoughts from Damp Tresses (see here for explanation), I read Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. My friend, Adrienne, is an AP Literature teacher and was about to start this book with her seniors and had asked if I had ever read it. I, unfortunately, had not and she just thought that was a travesty. So, I went back in time and joined a bunch of high schoolers in reading a book that I now realize to be an overlooked classic.
“A deeply soulful novel that comprehends love and cruelty, and separates the big people from the small of heart, without ever losing sympathy for those unfortunates who don’t know how to live properly.” —Zadie Smith
One of the most important and enduring books of the twentieth century, Their Eyes Were Watching God brings to life a Southern love story with the wit and pathos found only in the writing of Zora Neale Hurston. Out of print for almost thirty years—due largely to initial audiences’ rejection of its strong black female protagonist—Hurston’s classic has since its 1978 reissue become perhaps the most widely read and highly acclaimed novel in the canon of African-American literature.
The thing that struck me most about this book was the fact that, although Janie might not have made some of the choices we would have wished for her, she took control over her own life. She was empowered with the ability to make those decisions, to love the wrong man with all of her heart, to give of herself in certain ways that most feminists would find appalling. And that is most likely why Their Eyes Were Watching Godis oftentimes described as "feminist literature". Although we tend to forget it, feminism is all about choice. I wish more women would remember that. It's not about judging someone who chooses to stay home after they have a child or about someone who chooses to make her husband dinner every night. Because Lord knows, I am sooooo not those people, but I wholeheartedly respect (and am thankful) that each individual woman has the control of her own life to make those decisions for herself.