I was watching an episode of Ghostwriter on YouTube at work earlier today…the “Who Is Max Mouse?” arc. Jamal mentioned how the Max Mouse hacker infiltrated the Hurston computers and I immediately thought of the school’s namesake: Zora Neale Hurston. I thought of her most famous work. That brings me to this week’s Black History subject in the Flashback Friday series: Zora Neale Hurston’s “Their Eyes Were Watching God”.
How I first came across this subject? According to Triumphs & Tribulations II, I came across Hurston’s novel when it was assigned as one of the books we’d be covering in the spring semester of Mrs. Reynolds-Jemison’s Honors English 11 class. It was the 3rd book we read by a well-known Black American writer that year alongside Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun and Ernest J. Gaines’ A Lesson Before Dying.
What it meant to me then? On my first read in the Spring of 2002, it was a weird read. I just got this feeling that Janie didn’t know what the hell she really wanted in a man and just kinda went with the flow…and it always ended badly. I was also a bit taken back by the language—the dialect—and the fact that Hurston left a lot of things unsaid or unexplained. It made for a difficult and hazy read.
What it means to me now? I did a re-read of Their Eyes Were Watching God in 2013. It was my book of choice on the transoceanic flight back to North America after finishing my military career in South Korea. I saw the entire story a lot differently in the 11 years between reads, mostly because of having my first love die much just like Janie’s did. I was able to show a bit more empathy towards the character. Today, I actually relate to Janie’s character in more ways than I can imagine. Having labored through the Lost Decade of Dating, I fully understand how she managed to get in and out of those relationships and why they ended so unfortunately for her. At the core, she was searching for an identity and really someone who complemented it. Anyway, it’s a great book. I’m honored to have read it.