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.
This week, all week, jmww journal is publishing a special issue: all flash nonfiction, all week. Titled “In the Pocket,” pieces 350 words of fewer have been running as of last Friday. New pieces post every day, through this coming Friday.
By way of a preview, please follow along as Walburga Appleseed wrestles with a question that continues to plague this nation, down to the individual.
What It Isby Walburga Appleseed
“It’s just a blob,” says the counselor on the other end of the line. “Just a blob of cells. It doesn’t even have a heartbeat yet.”
She is trying to be helpful and kind, and I want to believe her, but the thing that invited itself into my womb is not a blob. It is a universe.
Last year, I was a nominee. This year, as an editor, it was my privilege to nominate. My nominations are in the Nonfiction category. I listed the other categories’ noms, just in case you’d like to read those, as well.