Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Huston

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RATING: 4/5

SYNOPSIS: When Janie is sixteen her grandmother catches her kissing a local boy. Fearing that Janie is going to end up an unwed mother like herself and her daughter, she decides that the only way to keep Janie safe is to marry her off to an older man Janie has no affection for. What follows is Janie’s attempt to find herself in a world where a woman is only “safe” if she’s married.

 

This is one of those books that’s hard to review because there isn’t a plot to comment on and the characterization is buried under the narration. There is a reason that this book is a classic and the fact that this book is a classic is a reason to pick this book up. The narration is absolutely stunning and achieves that poetic quality that I feel like a lot of authors strive for in their writing. The only downside is that the dialogue is written in phonetic vernacular, so you have to pay close attention or else you’ll be unable to figure out who is talking or you won’t understand a word of what is said. For the most part it wasn’t too hard, but all the “Ah”s start to run together so it’s easy to get lulled into a place where you’ve zoned out. Other than that I did enjoy reading a story about written by a black woman about a time period where you often don’t get non-white narratives. This book is set in the early 1900s and I liked how there are moments where Janie realizes that the world she lives in is different from the world her grandmother lived in and that being an ex-slave colored her grandmother’s world differently than she wanted to live her life. I also liked how Janie’s world feels familiar to the world today. The opening scene is Janie walking home and all the neighbors are gossiping to each other about where she’s been, what she’s done, and passing judgement on her character which is something that I think everyone can connect with on some level. It just goes to show just how people change so drastically and at the same time don’t change at all. Also because of the time this book was written and the time the book is set, the men are really gross in terms of how they treat women. For example Janie’s husband beats her to show other people that she is his property and not because she did anything wrong. It really bothered me and all the other misogynistic acts Janie had to endure are disgusting, but everything is played off as the norm which really sucks. However, Janie does become more of a person throughout the book as she figures out what she wants out of life and what she can do to get the life she’s always dreamed of having. I don’t think I need to tell you guys to read this book because like all classics you’re either going to read it or you’re not because classics aren’t your thing, but if you want to explore a period of American history from a different lens or are trying to be more diverse in  what stories and authors you read you should pick this book up.

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