Good Reading: A Review (February 2008)

This month I read a book by Zora Neale Hurston called Their Eyes Were Watching God. I highly recommend it. I had decided that I wanted to branch out from my normal themes or genres and try something that I hadn’t been exposed to during my education.

I found this to be a wonderful book.  As a woman, I really identified with the main character, Janie.  My life experiences and hers are widely different and  yet I understand her and I understand her emotions and her thinking.  The book covers her growth and changes as she goes from a young girl to a widow; it covers three marriages and life afterward.

I’ve seen criticism of the language Ms. Hurston uses in the book – it is too black, it is spelled phonetically, it made the characters sound stupid, and the like.  While it took some getting used to for me, I found that it added to the story.  I don’t personally know if people in the areas of the country actually talk that way, but I assume that they do.  For me, it added to the texture of the book, the way it felt to me; it drew me into the environment.  As for making the characters sound stupid, I find that an odd argument.  I have talked to various intelligent people from different parts of the world; some accents can have an impact on how someone sounds but listening to WHAT a person is saying makes it apparent that they are indeed intelligent.  To focus on how the characters talk in this book is to focus on one tiny insignificant detail and ignore the beauty all around it.   The language is too black?  For what, I want to know.  I am indeed white but I had no problem understanding it.  Some things I gathered from context, but most of it was clear to me without effort.  I don’t know; perhaps I am not analyzing this enough but the criticisms I have seen in other places just don’t make sense to me.

All in all, I recommend this book.  I believe that any woman would find something in this story with with they could identify.  I found the language interesting and in some places absolutely beautiful.  I fully intend to read more by Zola Hurston.


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