Zora Neale Hurston’s novel Their Eyes Were Watching God was first published on September 18, 1937. The novel chronicles Janie Crawford’s search for identity as an African-American woman and her place in the world. Their Eyes Were Watching God is also a tale of friendship; returning to Eatonville as a middle-aged woman, Janie summons her best friend, Pheoby Watson, to come and hear her story. As Janie narrates her story to Pheoby, the novel chronicles Janie’s life from childhood through three marriages and concludes with Janie’s homecoming. The novel takes place within communities in southern Florida, from Janie’s hometown to Eatonville to the “muck” of the Everglades.
Although the Harlem Renaissance boomed in New York City, and many African-American women writers flourished during this time, the politics of Harlem seemed far away from south Florida. Still, the questions asked in Harlem—Where do I fit into American life? to American arts and literature? Who am I as an African-American woman?—influenced the development of African-American communities throughout the United States. Hurston also grappled with these questions in Their Eyes Were Watching God and in her life as an African- American woman writer. Alice Walker said of Hurston’s novel, “There is no book more important to me than this one.”

Get the complete experience of reading the Their Eyes Were Watching God with your classes with EMC’s Access Edition novel, complete with a study guide, time line of Hurston’s life and works, historical context, character descriptions, guided reading questions, vocabulary support, plot analysis, and related readings, such as “Love” an excerpt from Dust Tracks on a Road by Hurston. Creative and critical writing activities, projects, a glossary, and handbook of literary terms are also included.

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