Their Eyes Were Watching God

One of Time Magazine's Best 100 English-Language Novels from 1923–2005

On Oprah’s Summer Reading List

Their Eyes Were Watching God, an American classic, is the luminous and haunting novel about Janie Crawford, a Southern black woman in the 1930s, whose journey from a free-spirited girl to a woman of independence and substance has inspired writers and readers for close to seventy years.

This poetic, graceful love story, rooted in black folk traditions and steeped in mythic realism, celebrates boldly and brilliantly African American culture and heritage. And in a powerful, mesmerizing narrative, it pays quiet tribute to a black woman who, though constricted by the times, still demanded to be heard.

Originally published in 1937 and long out of print, the book was reissued in 1975, and nearly three decades later Their Eyes Were Watching God is considered a seminal novel in American fiction.

Editorial Reviews

“There is no book more important to me than this one.” 

Alice Walker

“For me, Their eyes were watching God is one of the very greatest American novels of the 20th century. It is so lyrical it should be sentimental; it is so passionate it should be overwrought, but it is instead a rigorous, convincing and dazzling piece of prose, as emotionally satisfying as it is impressive. There is no novel I love more.” 

Zadie Smith

Their Eyes belongs in the same category—with that of William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ernest Hemingway—of enduring American literature.” 

 Saturday Review 

Their Eyes Were Watching God has much more humor in it; and paradoxically—possibly because the author is writing unselfconsciously of her own people—it is more objective. It never comes to the verge of conscious, sentimental “sympathy.” A simple and unpretentious story, but there is nothing else quite like it.”  

 Saturday Review of Literature, 1937

“For readers who know Hurston’s work, this program will be a joy, for those who are lucky and wise enough to discover her here, it will be an exceptional experience.” 


Author Biography

Zora Neale Hurston (1891–1960) was a novelist, folklorist, and anthropologist whose fictional and factual accounts of black heritage remain unparalleled. In addition to her most celebrated work, the 1937 novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, Hurston’s books include The Six Fools, Lies and Other Tall Tales, The Skull Talks Back, and What’s the Hurry, Fox?

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Reader Biography

Ruby Dee is an award-winning actress, playwright, screenwriter, and activist, perhaps best known for starring in the 1961 film A Raisin in the Sun and for her role as Mama Lucas in American Gangster, for which she received an Oscar nomination. She is also known for her civic work with husband Ossie Davis. She and Ossie had a series on public television called With Ossie and Ruby, and later published With Ossie and Ruby: In This Life Together, a book about their life experiences during their fifty years of marriage. Now in her nineties, Ruby continues to perform, most recently as a narrator for the Lifetime original movie Betty and Coretta.

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