She was stretched on her back beneath the pear tree soaking in the alto chant of the visiting bees, the gold of the sun and the panting breath of the breeze when the inaudible voice of it all came to her.
I read Their Eyes Were Watching God in my first-ever Women’s Studies class. I was nineteen years old and in love with Zora Neale Hurston’s lush prose. Set in rural Florida at the turn of the 20th century, Their Eyes Were Watching God is a most intense and most-er satisfying telling of Janie Crawford’s journey as a beautiful, light-skinned black girl to a woman with agency.
It is not surprising that, commercially, the book did terribly. Hurston and who else cared about the lives of Black women in the late 1930s, when the book was written?
Rediscovered in the 1970s, Their Eyes Were Watching God went on to greatly influence the work of the next wave of African-American writers such as Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, and Rita Mae Brown.
GREATLY INFLUENCED BY ZORA NEALE HURSTON: