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February Book Club Selection: Their Eyes Were Watching God

Saturday, February 23, 2019

“They seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were watching God.” 

Happy Saturday, My Lovelies!  I want to apologize for being a day late with our book club post, but it couldn't be helped.  

I've read Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston three or four times, and I'm always surprised by the new things I learn from Janie Crawford.

I hope you're reading the corresponding chapters in The Heroine's Bookshelf by Erin Blakemore for each book because I think it will give you a fresh perspective about the heroines and their authors we're reading this year.  The chapter about Janie Crawford and Zora Neale Hurston is fascinating.  I could see several similarities between Janie and Zora, and I appreciate Blakemore's insights into when would be an optimum time to read these stories.  For example, she states that a good time to read this book is: "When you're not sure you're going to church or going through the motions."  Blakemore also recommends other reads, or "Janie's literary sisters."  I think it would be fun to go back through the book and read the literary sisters' books.  Maybe for next year's book club!

Janie's characteristic that Blakemore writes about in her book is faith.  Janie has it in spades: in God, although she questions Him, and herself.  This is a book about becoming who you are meant to be by exploring an uncharted horizon.  Janie is brave, and she is self-assured.  She has a voice, and she isn't scared of using it:

“Two things everybody's got tuh do fuh theyselves. They got tuh go tuh God, and they got tuh find out about livin' fuh theyselves.” 

"Sometimes God gits familiar wid us womenfolks too and talks His insides business.  He told me how surprised He was 'bout y'all turning out so smart after Him makin' yuh different; and how surprised y'all is goin' tuh be if you ever find out you don't know half as much 'bout us as you think you do.  It's so easy to make yo'self out God Almighty when you ain't got nuthin' tuh strain against but women and chickens."

I'm changing how I'm posting questions for this book only. The main reason is because I am currently not home, and I thought this would be easier for me to moderate comments via my phone.  

I'm posting a few questions here in the post, and y'all can discuss in comments.  I'd appreciate it if you'd ask a few of your own, if you like.  

Their Eyes Were Watching God Discussion Questions

1.   Hurston wrote this book using AAE (African American English) dialect, and she was criticized for doing so.  What are your thoughts about reading stories using AAE?  

2.   There are many references to the horizon (especially that of a sea or ocean) in this book, which is apropos considering the setting is in Florida, and the book's climax is during a hurricane.  How does this symbol apply to Janie's life?

3.   Let's talk about the symbolism of Janie's beautiful hair.  Go!

4.   Death is not only personified in the book, he is a symbol for transition.  How does death provide transitions for Janie?

5.   Why does Hurston have Janie tell her story through flashback?

6.   Janie loved Tea Cake in spite of the fact that he hit her.  What do you make of this, and what do you think about the symbol of the sun as it relates to him?

7.   Blakemore states in her book that Janie represents the characteristic of faith.  If Blakemore decided to rewrite this chapter, what other trait could she attribute to Janie?  

8.  There are so many beautiful quote in this book.  One of my favorites is the first line: "Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board."  This is one of the best opening lines I've ever read because it sets a mood of dreaminess and wishes....and I like it!  Do you have a favorite quote from the book?  Please share it!

I hope you enjoyed reading Their Eyes Are Watching God.  I look forward to reading your comments!  I will close comments Tuesday evening.

Comments are now closed.

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill


  1. I had never even heard of this book before! So I was excited to get into it.

    But I was very disappointed by it. I wanted to quit and throw it in the trash after about 20 pages! Mainly because of your first question ~ the AAE she used to write it. I can certainly see why she wanted to; she wanted the book to feel contemporary to those of her generation, and their experiences. But for me, it was a complete and utter non-starter.

    Unfortunately, that made the rest of the book unmemorable for me ~ I just slogged through it to get to the end.

    Lesson learned ~ never read/continue on in a book if you are totally turned off by it 20 pages in!

    1. I'm so sorry you didn't like it, but I agree that life's too short to read books you can't get into. I usually have to read books written in dialects out loud until I get into a rhythm. I'm a Southerner, so I'm accustomed to the dialect, and several of the idioms Janie uses in her speech my grandmother says as well.

  2. Thanks, Ricki! I wish I could have liked it ~

  3. I didn't read this one but on the AAE, I've read books with that before and I find it very frustrating. If it's one character, not so much a problem or if the book has several narrators and only one goes this way, not a problem. I have the same issue if it's a foreign character in a book where too much native language is used. It's one thing if it's context, another if it confuses the reader.



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