Their Eyes Were Watching God – Book Response

I am participating in a book challenge for the year to stretch my literary intake. I decided to participate in one I would have never thought to do and that is the African Diaspora Reading Challenge 2010.
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My goal is read a book a month and I’m going for the Scholar Level of participation. I’ve changed my title from “book reviews” to “book responses.” There is an order to book reviews and a simple google search will yield a hundred reviews on every book I post as part of this challenge. It is not my goal to give you a review. My goal is to give you a response, my response. What stood out to me, what I resonate with, what I don’t understand and how it makes me think.
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The book I read for the month of April was Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston.
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STORY
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The back cover states that…” it is an enduring Southern love story sparkling with wit, beauty an heartfelt wisdom. Told in the captivating voice of a woman who refuses to live in sorrow bitterness, fear or foolish romantic dreams. It is the story of….Janie Crawford and her evolving selfhood through three marriages an a lie marked by poverty, trials and purpose.”
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A lot of people are probably familiar with this story via the movie starring Halle Berry. That was my first encounter with “Their Eyes Were Watching God.”
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TONE
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It took me awhile to get used to the thick southern language used in the book. If I read it like a song, not focusing on the one word but the whole page, it started to flow better in my mind.

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I really enjoyed the authors descriptive and imaginative style, from Janie’s experience, encounters and understanding of nature to the way the vultures ate a dead body. There are some books where I’ve found myself skimming over the long narrative descriptions. With this book, I found myself reading it over and and over again because it was so captivating.

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QUOTES
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I love when things are said in a certain way. I collect quotes. I give no context for the quotes. You will just have to read the book. Some highlights though were…..
“Dat’s what makes me skeered. You don’t mean no harm. You don’t even  know where harm is.”
“She got nothing from Jodie except what money could buy, and she was giving away what she didn’t value.”
“Half gods are worshiped in wine and flowers. Real gods require blood.”
There are many more quotes that stood out but these, especially the last one were among my favorite.
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TAKE AWAYS and LESSONS
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It was interesting to me that Janie’s consciousness according to her grandmother began at the awareness of the physical manifestation of her sexuality in relation to men…to Janie that level consciousness happened through a deeper awareness of nature and the way one natural thing made love to another. For me in highlights one of the many issues regarding what families teach their children about their own sense of sexuality. To think that sexuality begins at a kiss does a huge injustice to children. We need not even focus on that though because that was just a mere moment in the book.
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At one point, another quote was stated...”Have de nerve tuh say whut you mean.” I’m unsure who said this to whom but I love it. I see it as a mantra that we all should take to heart.
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I was not attracted to Janie’s character as it relate to men. Being that this book recounted her experiences with them, at times I found it difficult to keep reading. I’m just over the woman or man who stays in controlling, jealous, manipulative relationships. Therefore it was hard to have sympathy for her.
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I suppose one of the main thing I take away from this book is what Janie said to her friend. “Two things everybody’s got tuh do fuh theyselves. They got tu go tuh God, an they got tuh find out about livin fuh theyselves.” While Janie’s relationships to men annoyed me, the lesson she learned and the strength she embodied through her independance was commendable. Despite everything that happened and everyone’s response to it, she stood firm on the fact that it was her story, she had to live and she wasn’t ashamed or regretted any moment of it. Can you say that about your life? Can you own up to your choices and live with them?
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While the book is a classic, it wasn’t a soul stirrer for me. I’m definitely interested in reading more of Zora Hurston and am hoping for a different kind of story.
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EXTRA TIDBITS
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Last thing, there was another quote in the book. Again, I’m not sure who said it and to what it referenced but it goes as follows. “Ah feels lak uh motherless chile round heah.” The quote stood out to me because of an old african or southern hymn we used to sing in my high school gospel choir. Enjoy Bessie Griffin below sing her soul out.

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