Friday, March 12, 2010

Rereading a classic: Their Eyes Were Watching God

I read Zora Neale Hurston's masterpiece, Their Eyes Were Watching God, for the first time as a junior in high school. I read it for the second time last weekend as a participant in the National Endowment for the Arts' program, The Big Read (see my post on last year's - The Great Gatsby - here). It's the largest reading program in the country. I enjoyed it very much 14 years ago, and so much more this time. This novel has several good things wrapped into one story: coming of age, a journey for love, a woman's struggle for independence, strong family relationships and female friendship.

What resonated with me the most during this reading is that most of the book is Janie Crawford's attempt to catch her friend, Pheoby, up on where she's been since they last saw each other. I could identify so well with this.

I'm lucky in that I have five very best friends: one from childhood and four more from college. None of them lives in Atlanta like I do, so we email each other daily, talk on the phone some and are connected on Facebook. We always save our best and longest stories for when we see each other in person. Isn't a story from an old friend always told best in person? When we get together, a lot of what we do is catch up, and it's usually over a cup of tea or a glass of wine. Like Janie, I've gotten accustomed to condensing a lot of information into a story told to an audience of from one to four girlfriends. I can imagine that Janie felt, as I often do, that telling stories in such a setting gives the storyteller both relief and perspective. Thank goodness for girlfriends.

Alice Walker is one of the few people who deserve credit for a resurgence in Hurston's popularity. You can read more about what I've written about Walker here and here.

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