“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.”
For the first month of Modern Mrs. Darcey’s reading challenge I chose from the category, “A Book You Should Have Read in School.”
Now, I had didn’t know all the books that were considered required reading for high school, so I did what all good millennials do when up against a difficult conundrum: I Googled it. After scouring a few different lists I chose, Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. It is a fascinating book. This part of American literature I know very little about, so it was fascinating to dive into it!
In 1937, When Ms. Hurston published Their Eyes Were Watching God there were two different agendas fighting for authority in African-American art: The Racial Uplift and Harlem Renaissance. The Racial Uplift movement sought to sterilize the African-American voice and “conform to the norms of the day.” The Harlem Renaissance intended to expose the racial oppression that its followers believed the Uplift agenda was adhering too.
Hurston wasn’t all that interested in either camp so she and a collective of authors published novels and a magazine which focused on telling “the African-American experience without any filters or censors.”
Their Eyes Were Watching God captured me right away. It highlights not only the African-American struggle but also some of our universal human struggles. The story is told through flashbacks as Janie (our protagonist) sits down with her best friend, Pheoby, at a funeral and shares the tales of her three very distinct marriages. It is easy to relate to Janie’s struggle for love and independence.
Hurston’s writing is haunting and lyrical. While reading I kept making notes on my phone of all the beautiful passages. One such passage is this:
“The spirit of the marriage left the bedroom and took to living in the parlor. It was there to shake hands whenever company came to visit, but it never went back inside the bedroom again.”
One amazing part of the written word is that it shows us we haven’t changed a lot in 100 years. We aren’t more enlightened on the human condition despite our access to Google.
“It is so easy to be hopeful in the day time when you can see the things you wish on.”
I highly recommend reading Their Eyes Were Watching God if you also missed it in high school!