These Books Made Me

Their Eyes Were Watching God

April 07, 2022 Prince George's County Memorial Library System Season 2 Episode 4
These Books Made Me
Their Eyes Were Watching God
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Zora Neale Hurston may have been unappreciated as an author during her lifetime, but Their Eyes Were Watching God was eventually rediscovered and has endured as a classic for the past several decades. We explore the life and loves of Janie Crawford and her impact as a heroine. Our hosts discuss gender roles, the complex nature of romantic love, and unfortunate decisions during natural disasters. We delve into the rather polarizing use of dialect in the book and everyone learns which TEWWG character they are. We are also privileged to speak with an expert interpreter of Janie's story, songstress Tamara Wellons.

These Books Made Me is a podcast about the literary heroines who shaped us and is a product of the Prince George's County Memorial Library System podcast network. Stay in touch with us via Twitter @PGCMLS with #TheseBooksMadeMe or by email at TheseBooksMadeMe@pgcmls.info. For recommended readalikes and deep dives into topics related to each episode, visit our blog at https://pgcmls.medium.com/.

We cover a lot of ground in this episode. If you'd like to learn more about some of the topics we touch on, here's some links you might enjoy:
Voices of African American Female Authors: https://www.pbs.org/speak/seatosea/powerprose/hurston/#9

Tamara Wellons sings Songs for Janie:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QofU4KDIIaA&feature=emb_title

Dialect in TEWWG:
https://edsitement.neh.gov/lesson-plans/their-eyes-were-watching-god-folk-speech-and-figurative-language

Hawa:

Hi, I'm Hawa

Kelsey:

I'm Kelsey, and this is our podcast These Books Made Me. Today we're gonna be talking about Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. Friendly warning, as always, this podcast contains spoilers. If you don't yet know the fate of Matt Bonner's mule proceed with caution. We have two special guests this week.

Debra:

Hi, I'm Debra and I am a confessed Zora Neale Hurston enthusiast.

Elizabeth:

Hi, my name's Elizabeth. Um, I'm a librarian and I can't say I'm a Zora Neale Hurston enthusiast, but I'm really excited to talk about this particular book. I'd like to start by asking everyone what this book means to you. And for me, the thought that comes to mind is that it hits different reading this book, in high school. I did not get it, but as an adult, it just seems so romantic and exciting and passionate. And I didn't have the life experience in high school when I read it. So.

Hawa:

I know me personally. U m, so as a kid, I loved to read, but like around high school, I kind of fell off from it. But this was like one of the handful of books that we had to read in high school that like, I actually enjoyed. I mean, granted, I didn't finish because I was a little bit behind the class and they kind of finished before I did. So they, they were like spoilers, but, u m, yeah, it's one of the few books that stood out to me. But back then, I was just like, no, I like this book maybe in a different life. I would've finished it before the class did, but you know, and I think because it was one of the few books by Black authors that I got to read in school that were like required, that it stood out to me. So that's kind of what that meant into me.

Kelsey:

A librarian. And you dare to confess that you did not finish a book for your English class in high school.

Hawa:

Absolutely.

Kelsey:

Wow.

Hawa:

Shout out to my English teacher, Ms . Lindsay for passing me anyway.

Debra:

Well, returning to Their Eyes Were Watching God, after more than 30 years, I was excited and also filled with dread because for more than 30 years, I've been touting this as like a life changing book among the best of the best. And remembering back to some of the potentially problematic parts, which I'm sure we'll discuss today. I got a little worried about like, well, what if it's not all that great and well, that crushed me, but I, I can , uh , report with some relief that for me, yes, it's still a brilliant book. I will continue to, to recommend it. And , um, it was , uh , nice to revisit it.

Kelsey:

I, this is my first time ever reading it. I'm really glad that we had this podcast to force me to cause it's been on my to-do list forever. And I'm so glad I did. And, and I agree. I don't think I would've had nearly the same experience reading it as a teenager, as I, I did when I was reading it as an adult, I loved it. And I am very excited to talk about it today. Also shout out to the audiobook version. The, I don't know who read it, but it was so good.

Hawa:

Yes,

Kelsey:

It was so good. There's music highly recommend if you're looking to read it. Um, all right, so I'm gonna dive in on a plot summary. So Their Eyes Were watching God is the classic 1937 of Janie Crawford and her life as an African American woman in Florida. Janie tells a story of her emotional and personal growth, starting from her first kiss beneath the pear tree outside her house, Through three marriages until her forties, after the tragic death of her third husband. Janie's first two marriages, the arranged marriage to Logan Killicks that her grandmother set up her after witnessing her first kiss and her marriage to Joe Starks, who installs himself as the mayor, an entrepreneur of the all Black city of Eatonville, Florida, Janie is unhappy and stifled, finding herself to be nothing more than a prop for her husband's desires. It is not until Janie's third marriage to Vergible Tea Cake Woods that she can truly come into her own. Janie and Tea Cake embark on many adventures, but during the Okeechobee flood, Tea Cake is bit by a rabid dog. And Janie is forced to kill him after he threatens her with a pistol. Janie's ultimately found innocent. And after the trial, she returns to Eatonville where she begins to recount the story of the book to her friend, Phoebe.

Debra:

Okay. I guess I'll take over with a little biography of our author. Zora Neale Hurston now recognized as a prominent writer of the Harlem Renaissance who was born in Alabama in 1891, and raised in the town depicted in Their Eyes Were Watching God, Eatonville, Florida, the first African American incorporated town in the United States. In Eatonville, her father was elected mayor three times and her mother, a former country teacher, cared for the couple's eight children. This solid family foundation crumbled when Hurston's mother died. Hurston was 13. She left home a year later to work as a maid with the traveling show and left the company. While in Baltimore, she enrolled herself in school and graduated and subsequently entered Howard University. Ms. Hurston arrived in New York in 1925 and joined other artists of what became known as the Harlem Renaissance in New York. She also studied anthropology under Franz Boas at Barnard College. She graduated and worked as an ethnographer collecting folklore from Florida, Alabama, and also Haiti and Jamaica. Her many writings include essays, ethnographies, short stories, which are my favorite, an autobiography, and two novels. She continued to write, but had to resort to menial jobs, to support herself through the 1950s and died in relative obscurity in 1960. Alice Walker revived interest in her work, Zora Hurston's work in the 1970s. Each episode, our luminous literarian, Hawa will provide miscellany and insights from our book. It's time for Hawa's Headspace.

Hawa:

Hi, everyone. Welcome to Hawa's Headspace, a part of the podcast where I literally say whatever comes to mind for today's segment, I'm browsing through good reads to see what others have to say about Zora Neale Hurston's, Their Eyes Were Watching God, a book that many consider to be a classic. Okay, so let's start off with the bad reviews. One of the first , uh , bad reviews gives it one star and it says, sorry, but the dialect is hard to concentrate on for me. And I'm one third of the way through, without carrying a wit for any of the characters, including Janie, this might be one of those rare books that would work better as an audio book. My life is too short and my reading time is too limited to continue to read on this one. So I am DNFing. I seldom DNF, and this is the second one in the week that I have given up on. I do hope I make a better choice in my next read. The next one says, this is another one star review says, mea culpa, I just could not get into this. And I had to give up. The phonetic spellings and distinctive pronunciation slowed me down so much that reading this became a burdensome chore. Now she'll never know what a great book this is. I'll skulk away now. Yes. Please skulk away because, Because so many people have this complaint about the dialect. I think it's understandable if you say I struggled with this dialect, but I think to dumb down the story or make it seem like it's dumbing down, the story is kind of like an insult to how great this book is. Now that we've heard the bad, let's hear some of the good, okay. So the first five star review says, I love this with my whole heart, honestly, same. So I think that the, the bad reviews don't get it and the good reviews really get it, especially that last one. So join us next time to see what else is going on in my head. Okay. So let's get into this discussion. My first question for y'all is how do you think this book held up? Was there anything that you guys felt might have been problematic or just in general, how to hold up?

Elizabeth:

I feel like the book holds up pretty well and it just feels pretty modern. Um , some of the conversations they, they feel you could imagine them happening today. So that that's like my first impression of how does it hold up? I even feel like some of the problematic aspects, you could still see that today.

Kelsey:

I, I agree a hundred percent. The only thing that like, maybe could have used a little more fleshing out is the portrayal of , um , Native American people in , um, especially around , um, where they moved to. I don't remember what it's called, but in near the Okeechobee river.

Debra:

The "muck"?

Kelsey:

Yeah. Um, because they, they're kind of like these like shadow figures that are like, oh, they're they're there. They fled, they, she doesn't even specifically say like what tribe they're from. So it's kind of like a, I, I think you, Debra, you said like a cardboard cutout, right?

Debra:

Just these stoic people moving to safety across the.

Kelsey:

Right.

Debra:

the, just kinda two dimensional cardboard.

Kelsey:

But I think it was supposed to show like he, he was being ignorant there, like he was supposed to. And I mean, we're gonna talk about this in a little bit, but there is this theme of like, kind of like trying to create a hierarchy within minoritized groups or like trying to say one person is better than the other. And I think that kind of ties in with like, even, you know, everyone has these beliefs that are not great.

Elizabeth:

Yeah. I think, I think I thought that line was interesting because there is this kind of spiritual aspect of it. I felt like with Tea Cake's character, there was also this acknowledging this disrespect of like nature and spirituality. And so that's, that's what I got from that comment. It kind of comes up as a theme throughout the book. But I think that comment really struck all of us, but to me, I was like, oh, you're not respecting, you know, what's happening.

Kelsey:

The signs you're getting

Elizabeth:

The signs like

Hawa:

This book as a choice for the podcast is definitely different from any other book that we've discussed. Like, cuz Janie's character is not a child for most of the book. I feel like even though Jan-Janie was a child at the beginning of the book and then her grandmother kind of just like married her off, there were certain like stages of like development that I feel like she didn't really get to that most people kind of go through as like younger that she didn't really get to go through until she got old there. Or even you could even say until she met Tea Cake and there were certain things that she kind of put up with because she in a way was still childlike.

Elizabeth:

Yeah. I think this book has definitely coming of age story elements and it's like, every marriage is kind of a different iteration of herself or discovery of herself, for sure. With Tea Cake I think there's even a line in there where she says, I feel like I kind of lived life in reverse. Like she was older when she was younger. And then with Tea Cake she gets to be like the kid, she didn't, she wasn't able to be, those are themes that are important to discuss and talk about.

Kelsey:

Yeah.

Hawa:

Yeah. Cuz Tea Cake is actually always going on her for like, she's always talking about how old she is. And he's like, I think this might be towards the end, but he's he basically says something to her along the lines of like, you know, I feel like you spent your older years with other people and like your, your younger years, you really spent that with me,

Kelsey:

Our , uh , coworker who recommended that we read this and unfortunately she wasn't able to join us to record. But for her, this was a really foundational text that she, I believe also had to read in high school. And one was one of the few books written by a Black woman that she read. So thinking about, you know, representation and this idea of what books made you to see that kind of, you know, have that be one of the first books that you learn in school that, you know, has an identity, that yourself was really important. And I think that's, you know, a common experience.

Elizabeth:

Um, for me, I kind of feel like it's , uh , commentary on a, on the Black woman's experience of having to feel like you have to be an adult when you're a kid. And so I, I find it strangely relatable, even though I was not sold off as a child to be married. But, but yeah, I , I do think that there's this kind of pressure for young Black girls to, to be, you know, kind of, there's a point where you're not seen as a child anymore, even though you are, and this book, I think explores that in a really beautiful way.

Hawa:

I like that you said that because I'm gonna go back to this again. But like, so you know, the whole thing with her getting sent off to get married was that her grandmother saw her kissing , uh , Johnny Taylor or whatever, but like her grandmother saw that and like assumed so much more. She's like, how long have you been letting him kiss on you? And like, that was the first time she ever like kissed him. And she, she was like, so devastated. She was like this, it was really this innocent childlike thing that she was doing. Maybe not super innocent, but like, it wasn't as like quote unquote fast as like her grandmother had like assumed. But I think there's always this assumption of like young, Black girls being fast. And after that, she was just thrust into a womanhood and her grandmother's like, make sure you do all this for your husband and da, da, da, da, da. And she's like, I was just kissing the boy in the backyard like five minutes ago. And now I have to know all these wifely duties, like

Debra:

But yes, for, I, I didn't even consider all the reasons you mentioned, but for me personally, it was very , uh , I don't know what about it, but I, I credit her. I, she is part of the influence of why I went to study anthropology in graduate school. I mean, it was just something totally different than I had seen. And I read it a lot closer than you all to when it was rediscovered. So it was just not like anything I had read before. And, and , uh , it drove me to read everything I could find by Zora Neale Hurston or about her. And , um, it, it definitely , um, was a book that made me to, as well as an adult , uh , a young adult ,

Hawa:

Um, one character that I thought was interesting was Mrs. Turner. So this is a woman in for, to, to jog your memory. If you don't remember, she was a woman that lived in the muck. I, I guess she was like a lighter skinned woman, but she, she was very much like, I don't like Black people almost like she, like, she kind of, the way she talked about them to Janie was like, she found them to be belligerent and she didn't like having them in her store and, and almost like, why are you with Tea Cake? And she kept trying to push, she kept trying to push her brother onto Janie, to jog your memory a little bit. I don't know. How'd y'all feel about her character and some of the things that she said, and especially as it relates to like colorism and like

Kelsey:

One thing I, I, I also, like we haven't said this yet, but this book is really funny. Like, it's very, like, she, like Zora Neale Hurston is very good with a turn of phrase. And when she's talking about Mrs . Turner, she says, Mrs. Turner took Black folk as a personal affront to herself, which I think is a very funny way to summarize her character. I, I , I just, I think it's like just a very nuanced conversation, right? Like this, a, a lot of this book is about racism, but it's about, again, like we already mentioned it, but like the internal racism that you can have and how that can, you know, backfire on yourself, right? Like Mrs . Turner is a Black woman, but she wants to separate herself and she doesn't really even realize that that she's doing that.

Elizabeth:

I think she knows exactly what she's doing well, Like, I mean, I think the thing is, is that the society is set up that way, right? Like it's set up for you to, especially at that time to hate being a Black person, because being a Black person means that you're inferior and, and clearly Mrs . Turner is someone who believes in that she's not inferior. And so of course she's gonna hate other Black people because anything that reminds her of her inferiority that she should not have in her mind is is an affront. Like, absolutely. I, I, I find the character interesting just because I think you despise her because she's saying the thing that other people in the book express, but don't say even with Janie, I mean, the way she's treated and talked about, there's always this kind of, you know, putting her on a pedestal because she is part white. And so even though maybe people don't have that like outward self hatred, it's just like, to me oozes throughout the whole book, it's almost like you can't completely dislike Mrs. Turner because you understand why she's the way that she is. You understand it. Right.

Hawa:

I think it's like you feel because, you know, Tea Cake makes Janie so happy you feel defensive of Tea Cake. You're just like, you leave her alone, she already married!

Debra:

Yeah. But I, but I appreciate what Elizabeth said that I do think that Zora Neale Hurston, the writer, does view all of her characters here with empathy. And there is something in all of them, you know, that I think I was mentioning earlier , uh , to Kelsey before we recorded it, that even Logan Killicks, you it's like, oh, thank goodness you got away from him, but oh, you kind of felt for him that he didn't know, he didn't know what he was doing and was just trying to make things work too. And the only model he had, so there's some understanding, at least some empathy for characters like Mrs . Turner or even Tea Cake when, if we wanna go, you know, he, he hits Janie to, show his possession of her, which is shocking. And, and , um, but , uh , I, I think she writes them with such empathy that, that you feel something for all of 'em, some understanding,

Elizabeth:

Right? The internal , uh, dialogue of people is so beautifully written because I cuz you're right. The , uh , Mr. Logan, he's, he's for pathetic in, in how she - just because like, he's absolutely hurt by the things that she's saying, but he can't express that, but you feel it in the way that Hurston writes it, like, you're like, oh wow, like I'm kind hurt. She's good. So I completely agree with you Debra. Like, I, I felt bad for him. I feel like he probably like when she left, like he did probably didn't cry, but like was just like devastated, you know,

Kelsey:

Probably took him a long time to get his confidence back,

Elizabeth:

You know? Gosh, I think she just didn't wanna be with that old man. That's She was, she was still young, like a teenager. She wants to be with like, you know, stylish and man who's promising all these things. I get it

Kelsey:

When she's with him, you know, that's when she realized that a marriage doesn't make love. And I think that for her has always been like a driving force is like wanting to be, to be loved and to feel, and with Logan, she never got that.

Elizabeth:

I actually think that would be a good place to kind of go back and talk about the grandmother because she does ask her grandmother, like, when am I gonna feel like love in this, this relationship? And she was like, what. Um , one of the things we're supposed to discuss is the generational expectations of what's required. And I think her grandmother who I think was a slave at one point , um, she's like, I think love to her is having the freedom to, to not work, you know? Yeah, yeah. Um , that, this is why I said that it was modern because even though like, this is, I mean, somewhat far away moved from slavery now, but that feeling of like one generation sees this as the way to go. And then the next generation is like, oh, I wanna be in love. And like, It just it's seems like a, a very universal theme to me. Maybe. I don't know if everyone agrees with that, but

Hawa:

Yeah. And there's a part where I think she's like with Logan, not Logan, she's with Jody in the store and she's just like, this is everything. Like I, I told my nanny that I ever wanted or something like that. I don't know. Their dynamic was really interesting. Like he, he he's like, oh, this is like my trophy wife. I don't want her to have to really do anything. But he also kind of like belittles her at certain points. And, you know, there's that, that part where she, I think she cuts the, the tobacco wrong or something like that. And I think he's trying to like, belittle her in the store and she, she doesn't take it. She's like, you're always talk. Why does my wrongdoings have to turn into you? Talking about my looks is something along the lines of what she says. And I was like, okay, girl, stand up for yourself. It's been like 20 years, but yeah, stand up for yourself. And, And then he doesn't like that. And he like slaps her. And part of all these people. And then I think from there is when he moves,

Kelsey:

He never sleeps with her.

Hawa:

He never sleeps her again. He moves his cot downstairs and not too long after he gets sick and everyone tries to make it seem like she had something to do with it. And she's so sad that he won't let her in the room when all these people who ain't never come by before, like coming through. And I'm just like poor Janie.

Elizabeth:

Yeah. I mean, I think important part of that is because she insulted him the way he insulted her. And even though, you know, she's been doing it for 20 years, it's like the one time she does it. I mean, I think even like, cuz the people around were like, oh, if someone ever did that to me, I'd just die. You know,

Hawa:

It was so dramatic!

Debra:

And, and Nanny had , um , you were talking about Nanny and how she kind of unwittingly I think prepared Janie for failure by just giving her more support and more self worth than, than, than she ever had. Um, and then, so you don't know what you don't know is that what? And, and so going, just trying to figure this out, Nanny doesn't know any what to tell her because it's, she's trying to set her up for something better, but what does something better look like? Um , and I , she coming back to the mule, says something like, well, as far as I can see, who knows what the world is like, but, and this is subtle. Um, the way Zora Neale Hurston addresses, what is usually very overt in some other African American writers' books, I guess, but white men control everything and then they put all everything on. I I'm certainly paraphrasing horribly, but um , on Black men who they don't carry that burden, they put it on, on the women and the women are the mules of, of the world - Black women are mules of the world. And so that's her perspective. So what does it mean to not be this, this , uh, to have that role Nanny doesn't know Janie certainly doesn't know. And so you of have a mess of a mess with Logan and then a mess with Joe. Um, right. I dunno where I was going with that, but you were all stimulating those ideas.

Hawa:

I think for Joe to be such a person like, you know, he comes to this town, he, he, he really brings it up and he establishes it. It's really interesting how easily he gets , uh , defensive over like Janie. Like I think like he, in the beginning, like when people would sit on the porch, she would chat, sit and chat. And then like, I think someone like is he sees someone like staring at her hair, almost trying to touch her hair. And then he's like, no, you're gonna cover up your hair. And so she covers up her hair from then on and it's like, she's not allowed to sit out there and have conversation with people, but he can. And it's just like, he holds her up so high, but he it's almost like she's, she's, he's like isolating her in a way because he's worried that he's gonna lose that.

Kelsey:

Yeah. I, I do wanna say like, speaking of the humor of the book, I thought like the whole scene where Jody was setting up the town was like some of the funniest parts of the book where he basically just strides in his like a, hello, I'm the mayor. Now here's my store that I built that you're gonna go to every day. And here's my giant house that I built and my like little lady size spitoon for my wife. And like, it was just, I, I, I really enjoyed that like scene setting and that like really, that really stuck out to me where , um, uh, Janie's explaining why she doesn't want to stay in Eatonville and try to get married again after Jody dies and why she wants to leave with Tea Cake. And she's explained to Phoebe that like her grandmother's vision for her was to be like the white ladies on the plantation and just like sit on the porch and, and, you know, drink iced tea all day and the, like, have like this very like relaxed life. But when you, when you don't have to, when your only job is to sit on the porch and like, look pretty, you're giving up a lot of power there. And so it's not actually freedom to Janie. She'd much rather like have a more precarious life that allows her to make choices. And so it's like, again, it's like she tried one way with Logan that didn't work out another way with Jody that didn't work out. Okay. Like let's present a whole third new option. See if that is gonna make a difference. I

Elizabeth:

I mean, I think it shows that there's a certain type of person that it takes to create a town. Um, and it's not surprising that they might be a little narcissist.

Hawa:

No, that absolutely makes sense. Especially for him to have been the mayor for as long as he was.

Elizabeth:

Yeah.

Hawa:

I just have so many thoughts on Tea Cake. Like it just, I think reading the parts with Tea Cake were just, it was just so beautiful and like sad at the same time, because beautiful because obviously like, you know, she gets to experience this love. U m, but sad because like, it took so long for her to experience this love, I guess, in a sense. And also like how like he passed. Yeah. I dunno. Your thoughts on Tea Cake

Debra:

And how you wanted to ring his neck when he went out gambling.

Kelsey:

Oh my god. So mad. I would not have given. I mean, Janie doesn't give in that easily, but like, I would, I don't know if I could recover from that situation, cuz like first like, okay, first of all, like I was so excited when she met him and left and was like finally, and then she wakes up the next day and her $200 are gone, it's midnight and he hasn't come back and I was like, are you kidding me? Like, come on.

Hawa:

Thought she was gonna end up like Annie Tyler.

Kelsey:

Yeah. And they tell the story of Annie Tyler and how she got totally screwed over. And I was like, no, like I can't do this again. And then when he comes back and he like makes her wait for the story, I was like, oh, Tea Cake, like you, no.

Hawa:

And then he, he just pulls up like nothing happened, right? Like, so like he's out, I think he's outside the door playing his guitar or something like that. And he's like, and she's like Tea Cake, is that you. And he's like, who else would it be? You've been gone all day, Who else would it be?

Elizabeth:

He does something similar to that often. Yeah. Like he'll just go for days and then like not, and then just show up. Yeah. Like he'll say, oh, I'll be here tonight and then doesn't come for three days. Like, so yeah. He's very frustrating character, but very lovable at the same time. Yeah.

Kelsey:

I, I think that's liberating for Jane in a way to like realize like, oh, you can just like, do whatever you want. You know? Like you can make whatever choices work for you. And like, I know that he loves me and is gonna come back eventually. Like they have to kind of reach that understanding, oh, I can just like follow my heart and like, see what happens. And like, I know it's probably gonna end up okay. Maybe doesn't necessarily work out for him every time. But um, you know, like giving her that freedom that she's been looking for, I think she- it allows her to maybe cope with some of the frustrations that come with that freedom.

Hawa:

And at first she was hesitant. Like, she was like, you don't, you, you don't want me, like, I'm older than you. You don't want me, you're just saying these things. And these are just your night thoughts, you know, you're just saying this, these are just your night thoughts, whatever, you know? And so he comes back super early the next day to prove that those weren't his night thoughts. And I was like, this is the cutest thing, low key. And she's like, stay and have breakfast. He's like, nah, babe, go to work. I got a job at eight.

Elizabeth:

It is a very romantic book in, in some parts. Like, and I think, I, I don't know. I don't think I picked up on that the first time. All I,

Hawa:

You know, so she's, she's with him in the town for a bit. And it's funny because the townspeople have so much to say, especially the, you know, they're they want her to marry some other guy from, I don't know where, but some guy who they're basically like this guy has so much more money and so much more land. Y'all can just come together. And it's funny because it's like, everybody has all these thoughts because of who her husband was. And it's just like, she's a grown woman. What about what she wants? But I guess that also just kind of speaks to like the time as well. Like I'm sure like her just walking around town with this guy that she's not married to. Wasn't really like, you know, a thing like even the, the young man who works in the store is like, you know, you shouldn't be seen with him. Do you want me to walk you home? Like this is not normal. And someone makes a comment about how like, you know, I guess like in the beginning she wears black cuz she's mourning and someone says something about how, like she's not wearing the, the black anymore. And she's like, the morning period is over. Like, and she wears blue because Tea Cake likes her in blue. Yeah. Which I thought was so funny. And she's like, well, Jody never picked out clothes for me. So I'm aware what Tea Cake likes me to wear. And I was like, oh, okay. This is a Tea Cake stan account.

Elizabeth:

Yeah. There, there was a time where she did feel a fondness and a love for Jody. Like I don't, cause I don't, I don't wanna completely dismiss that. I just think over the 20 years things changed, it was more so she started to realize more of who he actually was. Like every person that Janie is with was important for their reason. If that makes sense. You know what I mean? Like I feel like you can't appreciate a Tea Cake without Joe. You can't appreciate Joe without Logan. So

Kelsey:

Speaking to like why her feelings about Joe changed? I think a lot of it has to do with her job in the store. Being able to like, you know, develop relationships in the community and realize how like central and valuable she is as like the store manager and seeing the dynamics play out that she's like wants to be part of. But can't, I think like that gaining more confidence running the store by herself, like she's kind of nervous at first. Like she doesn't know how to do. I think she talks about like, not knowing how to do some of the accounting or something. And she gains that confidence to the point where after he dies, she runs it by herself. No stress, you know? So I think that's a piece. It too is like she kind of gains some independence that way. And then as she sees, like she's trying to carve out more of a space for herself and he like crowds her back in. I think that's where the tension comes in.

Debra:

Yes, yes, absolutely. I, I, I love Janie for her. Um, tells like it is, it's just like, this is how I feel. This is where I am now. And so this is, is what I'm gonna do and, and uh, yeah, they, I don't really care what, what anyone else , uh, thinks, which I think is a little, the author sharing a little of herself with us. And, and um, I still think that that's a modern theme. That's still important today. Um, we still are bombarded with what we sh- should or should not do how we should, you know, concern about what , how others perceive us. And neither she nor tea cake seem to have that obstacle in pursuing their lives and what they think their lives should be. So they were, they have their flaws.

Elizabeth:

They're definitely living their best lives. They were going to, like baseball games. And like shows and I'm like,

Kelsey:

He teaches her to play , um , like dice or dominoes or a board game that she was -

Debra:

Checkers.

Hawa:

It was one of the first thing he teaches her how to do, which I thought was interesting because , uh, when they used to play on the porch, like Jody, wouldn't let her even be around that. Yeah.

Kelsey:

So, ad you know, what I was thinking is, so masterful about the way Zora Neale Hurston introduces him is like, you've, you've been set up to see like all the ways that men can kind of let her down over the years. And then Tea Cake comes in and you're like expecting it. And Zora Neale Hurston really plays with that. So like, he teaches her how to like play checkers, but it's like, kind of feels like it's just a ploy of like flirt with her and then she'd brings him home or they'd go home together. I forget like what led to that? But you kind of feel nervous like, oh no, what's gonna happen when they, when they go to her house, but then nothing happens. And that's when she realizes like, it's okay, then you have this situation where he like disappears for 24 hours. Like each time you're kind of like, oh yeah, we, I knew all along. He was gonna be terrible. Then he kind of like comes back. You know, I think that's really like hard to do. And she does it really well throughout the book.

Hawa:

No, absolutely agreed. Because even rereading it, I'm like, wait, I remember a Tea Cake being this like great, you know, love of hers. But I also remember that I never finished the book. So like, So, so in the beginning when she's come, you know, in the very beginning they're like, all the people in the town are gossiping like, oh, Tea Cake, not left. I'm like, dang, did he leave her?

Elizabeth:

Yeah.

Hawa:

So I think that ending or that ending, but also the beginning , um , was really interesting just because like, you know, so there's the hurricane where everybody's leaving and they decide not to leave. Um, and he saves her from the rabid dog, which we don't know was rabid at the time the dog bites him in the face. And he learns a couple weeks later that, you know, he has rabies and the doctor's like, wow, I wish we would've gotten to him sooner more. There's nothing more we can really do. He's gonna die. That was, I felt so sad.

Elizabeth:

It's very sad.

Hawa:

It's very sad.

Elizabeth:

It's very frustrating though. Like that, that was one thing about, I think both of their personalities, which is like a flaw for both of them. Like they're not the type of people to kind of be on top of things. I was of frustrated when they didn't leave. Like that was like, just like you have a ride out, like you you're so likable that people like you're the first stop for someone who has like a way to safety and you don't choose it. And then again, it's like, okay, clearly you got hurt very badly. And we just, so just la de dah not dealing with this. So that, that was very frustrating for me reading.

Kelsey:

Yeah. And then, you know, she finds the pistol underneath his pillow and I'm like, wait, what's about to happen. I'm not gonna lie because I don't, I didn't remember how it ended. I thought he ended up shooting himself. I thought that he just went mad with the , uh , the symptoms of the rabies and just couldn't take it anymore, but it didn't make me think, I didn't at the time think, oh, maybe he was suspicious of Janie or felt like, you know, for whatever reason. And even when he's sick, he talks about how , um, like Janie's going off to go to go talk to the doctor to get a medicine. And he's like, I know you're off with Mrs. Turner's brother. Like she's, he's around here. And I heard da, da, da. And I'm just like, oh, poor Tea Cake. Like, he's really just like, cause he was never really that jealous seeming of a person for the most part. He did seem kinda confident with how he was with her. But also this made me kind of remember something that, I'm sorry to backtrack, but y'all remember the part where like, he's like, has her working in the fields with her and then there's the girl who keeps like trying to take, Nunkie or whatever her name was. I was like, girl, if you don't back up off of my girl's man, like what are you doing?

Elizabeth:

Y'all definitely upset me too. I was like, yep. I would've fought her too, because it's like also, cuz you've read this whole book and you've seen like what she's gone through to get this love of her life. Like yes. I definitely feel like some possessiveness makes sense there.

Kelsey:

Yeah. Yeah. And, and speaking to what you were talking about about like her reverse childhood, like this and her forties is her first time actually feeling jealous of another woman, which is a very like youthful, I think first love feeling to have. So it is interesting that that develops so late and it's very relatable when you, when she goes through it. I guess the question is like to go back to like this, the ending and the very tragic ending, like what do we think that does for the story instead of like just having, letting her like be with the love of her life forever. Like she's already gone through so much. Why did we need this like stressful, tragic, upsetting ending for her?

Debra:

Well, it's not exactly the, we do have the frame with Phoebe. True. And, and that adds something for me with that question in that, you know, that she's okay now in a way. And she has, she has lived this life. She knows that that is available. And, and I don't know, I , it somehow putting it in the frame makes it easier to accept her, her lack of planning as Elizabeth is like, OK, she really did not, she was not on top of this, but she she's dealing with the consequences just fine. It's not, it's okay to be Janie and it's okay to make these choices. Yeah. And even when the worst happens, it's okay. She's a survivor or she's a

Hawa:

So like, you know, I think she was really just happy like that she got to experience him like she's 40. Like she could probably get married again if she really wanted to too. But she probably won't because I think that the love that she found with Tea Cake, she knows she's not gonna find anywhere else.

Kelsey:

It's better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.

Hawa:

Exactly.

Elizabeth:

For sure.

Hawa:

That's the feeling I got from the end of this. And, and then also this , um, Debra, exactly what you were saying, like she knows who she is now through all these experiences. And I feel like as much as we love Tea Cake I feel like he was there. I think there's a line that alludes to this too. If like he had to die for her to like be herself, like still, like, I still feel like all of her relationships, there was still this like possession of her and true freedom is her experiencing love and losing it. And then for finding her way on her own,

Kelsey:

I mentioned before we started recording that, I think the title is interesting because it's not a very religious book, but to have the word God, so prominently in the book, I think can be like, an not a turn off for people, but like, you don't really know what you're signing up for. Right. But in a lot of ways, it almost feels like the , uh , Tea Cake's death is like preordained, like the life that they lived and the life that they had to live in order for them to be in love. Like that's what she likes about him is his chaotic energy. It's like, all of those choices led to that moment until this very second, as I'm saying this out loud, I was like, I wonder why she picked that title for her book. And maybe that's why, what do we think? Discuss

Elizabeth:

Zora Neale Hurston, from what I know about her, like she was really into spiritual things like it like kind of permeates a lot of her writing and her work. So I'm not surprised about the title. Um, and I do feel like you're, you're onto something with your, your train of thought there, because I just, all I can pull from my mind right now is that just her work, just permeate spirituality, like, and not like one that's necessarily a defined one. So I'm not surprised it's the title of the book. And just some of the, like the talks about the bees and the trees and the it's just, it just really makes sense to me.

Kelsey:

Yeah. The tree imagery really stood out for me. There's so many references between her mother who we haven't really discussed yet, but her mom being named Leafy , um , to like all the different ways, she kind of uses the tree as a metaphor for being a person, being a woman, having different life experiences, the tree being the place where she starts and ends her story. Very, very nature, nature,-y spiritual and Their Eyes Were watching God is actually said when the hurricane's coming. So I guess this,

Hawa:

Can I read the line?

Kelsey:

Yeah. Do it. Absolutely.

Hawa:

So this is when they, the hurricane's coming, right? So the wind came back with triple fury and put out the light for the last time. They sat in company with the others and other shanties, their eyes straining against crude walls and their souls asking if he meant to measure their puny might against his, they seem to be staring at the dark, but Their Eyes Were Watching God. I wanted to slide that in there.

Kelsey:

She's such a good writer

Elizabeth:

Like that. That was one thing I know we talked about this earlier, but going back, I was like, this is beautiful. This why didn't I appreciate this as a kid. And I hope I'm not going too far off track, but , um, one of the hindrances for me reading it was the dialect part of it. It, it was hard to read it. It was different. Kind of reminded me of reading , um, Huckleberry Finn, which I did not enjoy as much. And so, so I, I think I, that was like a big turnoff for me. And so it didn't let me enjoy the beautifulness of it. So, so yeah. Um,

Debra:

And, and the dialect, I, I actually have a different and highly recommend her short stories as well, which many of them have dialogue and so include the dialect. So, oh, this is true of many writers, but I read her dialect out loud in quotes in my head, which not only helps me understand what it's trying to say, but I think there is a real rhythm and beauty to it. After you've read it by the end of the book, did you feel any different Elizabeth?

Elizabeth:

Well, this time around, I listened to it, the beauty version and that helped a lot. It made, it made me appreciate , uh, because it almost was like, oh, it's like, you really are hearing these conversations as opposed to me, I think also reading this book with the different context of age and experience, it's also the experience of having read other books, had other material to kind of go from as opposed to, I mean, I was in high school. I was watching cartoons maybe time, like I just wasn't. And I, I think I was taking more of like the assignment into it, as opposed to the, like now as an adult, just reading it for the experience for the experience and just enjoying the story.

Kelsey:

Yeah. I, I wanna agree, the audiobook version, I think makes it, when you look at it on the page, it's intimidating. I was, I was a little thrown by the dial the, the way it was written at first because , um, so I was mentioning before we recorded, we had a great conversation before we recorded that in the introduction to my book, there was a, like an intro where they talked about its reception at the time. And some of the authors, her contemporaries at the time, Richard Wright, a couple authors, like really panned or gave it bad reviews. And one of the things they highlighted was the, the dialect and , um , Richard Wright called it minstrelsy, And to me it did feel like a little bit like a caricature at first. Um, but I read a review from Shirley Ann Williams, which is in another edition of the book,

Debra:

This one right here

Kelsey:

Debra's edition. And I, she feel like, I feel like she really made it make sense to me. She says to characterize her diction solely in terms of exotic dialect spellings is to miss her deftness with language in the speech of her characters, Black voices, whether rural or urban, Northern or Southern come alive, her fidelity to diction, metaphor and syntax rings even across 40 years. It was 40 years at the time in 1970 , um, with an aching familiarity, that is a testament to her skill and to the durability of Black speech. And I think for me, the piece that I was missing is expertise as an ethnographer and that she truly like knew and lived as a person who grew up there that dialect. And she was having a fidelity to the way, like a consistency of it. It's not just like, oh, this is what I think it is. She really studied and made sure it was honestly interpreted.

Debra:

And, and I think she loves it.

Kelsey:

Yeah.

Debra:

Like this is a person who grew up in Eatonville, had incredible sense of the importance of who she was and the culture that she came from and did not, I don't think she would subscribe to some of the, like even du Bois's idea of the top 10th of, I think she vehemently believed in the am -amazing stories that were on the porch and the worth of, of her characters, because she was criticized for not being more obvious about the oppression and the, the sheer horror that African Americans, u m, experienced because they were Black. She said, yes, I had experienced this, but I can't. I had something about like, I can't understand why anybody would deny themselves the pleasure of my company. It's like, it's beyond me. And, and I do believe she believed that.

Kelsey:

Okay Janie.

Debra:

Yeah.

Elizabeth:

Like that's what I'm saying. She put a lot of herself I think , uh , that's, I, one, another reason I say that this is very modern is because I think the conversation of how Black people are portrayed in literature and media is just one that is, feels like it's been the, since the beginning of media and literature and all of those things, because it's like a conversation that just happens over and over and over again. And Toni Morrison passed away recently, and that was this, she got similar criticism for her writing. Um, and then if you wanna like bring it up to now, I kinda, it's a weird comparison, but I think a lot of like Tyler Perry versus Spike Lee, And just like, you know, who is allowed to tell Black people stories. And now as an adult, just really appreciate reading a book about Black people. Yes. They're experiencing racism. Yes, white people are doing whatever white people are doing, but they're just living their lives. And in 2022, it's appreciating to just read about people just living their lives, because sometimes you just don't get that. Um, and yeah, Richard Wright was important. Yeah, yeah, yeah. We get it. But , um, I,

Hawa:

Why does that name sound so familiar? Is he Native Son?

Kelsey:

Yeah.

Debra:

Yeah.

Elizabeth:

Native Son. Yeah. Yeah. And then it's like, okay, all right. We get it. Yeah. And, And I think it's funny because I feel like Zora felt that way back in, you know, the twenties. So, so it's, again, she was ahead of her time. Were there any other like final thoughts on this book? Like what we thought about it overall? Did we enjoy it?

Kelsey:

Basically, every chapter started with a quote that I wanna write down.

Elizabeth:

Yeah.

Debra:

Well, if you start going down that rabbit hole, just, I recommend you , uh , read some of her short stories, the, that Drenched in Light or , um, Spunk or Sweat. I mean, she even kind of , um , pivots a little bit more between dialogue and the narrator who the dialect, or, or at least turns a phrase seep into the narrator. And sometimes she's a lot more rigid with that division in her short stories, but there's just, they're gems. They're just, they're gems.

Hawa:

I really, really enjoyed this book. Um, I'm so glad that we did it for this, this podcast and I'm, so it it's been great to actually get to have this discussion, because like I said, when I was in high school, I didn't finish the book. So I couldn't participate in the discussion for real, cuz I didn't know what they were talking about. Um, but no it's been it's it was really good. And I'm actually like taking part in this like 10, 10 books, 10 decade challenge. So this kind of covers like one of the books for like a different decade, so

Elizabeth:

Oh, okay. Yeah. I, I would just be ditto, ditto, ditto to everyone. In really enjoyed it. I appreciate like revisiting i t now as a 30 year old woman being in like kind of like a similar age to where she is in the part of the book. So I appreciate this book. Now let's talk to someone who actually knows something about one of the main topics covered in this book.

Tamara :

My name is Tamara Wellons. I am a singer and a songwriter and producer of , um , R & B, jazz, um , whatever I can get my hands on to sing.

Debra:

You have written and performed a theatrical concert called Songs for Janie, Janie being Janie Crawford. When and how were you introduced to Their Eyes Were Watching God.

Tamara:

I read the book. I was 17 years old when I first cracked the pages open of the book. Um, I hadn't read it completely, but I was in forensics class , um, with my teacher , uh , it was an afterschool program and I had to deliver a speech. I had a choice between The Ballot Or the Bullet with Malcolm X, an excerpt from Their Eyes Were Watching God and something else. I don't remember, but I ended up doing both of those pieces, but that's how I was introduced to the book. And it was the scene where , um , Janie was having a conversation with her grandma in the kitchen. I was always intrigued by her work from that point on, but I didn't fully get into the book until , um, I went to college, me and my roommate, we just got into it. We were reading back and, you know, partner reading and underlining. And for some reason, that book struck me. Um, I can't say for some reason, we all know, we love that book. Um, there are many of us who love that book. So , um, I became an , uh , another type of fan, but I relate to the story of Janie as a young girl,

Debra:

It's been 10 years now, but uh , how did it become the inspiration for Songs for Janie?

Tamara:

So , um, I wanted to work on a new body of work , uh , music, new collection. I was, and I had a friend who , um , was really good with coming up with conceptual ideas and, and things. And I reached out to her about , um, helping me decide, you know, how I wanted to present myself , um , musically , uh , for the, for this next project, understanding, you know, my roots in , um , Southern Virginia and I'm a country girl or a Southern girl, as some might say. Um, and one of the concepts that she came back with me, she was like, Tammy, you know, I like this. You should do Songs for Janie. During that time. Um, I was, it was very easy for me to write. Um , I was a new mother newly, still, I would say still newly in my marriage, but it was , um, it was coming to an end. So when I started writing the book, I mean, writing the, writing, the, the, the songs, I think that was like 2009. Um, by the time I finished, I was going through a divorce and writing that music became, you know, a healing place for me. I could see myself in Janie, in her ending of , um, her marriages and her growing as a woman. And I just related to it in a very strong way. I feel like I became Janie. I , I just poured a, a bit of my experience into , um, the songs. Of course, it's hard for me not to do that as a songwriter, Zora Neale Hurston's work influenced me. I can't even , um, how I became one with the literature , um, to, to be able to write the songs.

Debra:

I was wondering if you feel different about the material and Songs for Janie now and with Their Eyes Were Watching God now that some time has passed and, and yeah

Tamara:

I do feel differently about it? Um, I, the character Janie, you know, her journey from, from being a, a, I guess, a maiden to a matron and to this , um, independent woman who's found love for, you know, herself first and then was able to, you know, find, find other love, oh my gosh, there is a different , um, um , sound that I want to present in that work.

Debra:

Songs for Janie includes porch tales. I was wondering how those were staged or how, or whether they were staged or how that came about. explain what they are too. I, I

Tamara:

Ok, I'll explain what they are. And two, I wish we had staged the porch tales a little bit more, cuz I don't think we did enough of that, but let me just tell you, so where can I start with this? So in reading the , um, book. I could catch the language very well and it was hard for some people, but literally my family taught like that so I could follow it once I got the , um, it felt, you know, it felt a little musical too. Once I got the rhythm of it , um, I was like, oh my gosh, this sounds like my grand, my granddaddy. It sounds like my uncle Willie. It sounds like my aunt Verline and aunt Charlene and my mom and I, I just could hear the , um, soundscape of the little town I grew up in, which is called Ivor, Virginia , um, in that work. So um, I think that's what captivated me , um , from, from the jump, my, my family is, they're full of storytellers and one in particular is my uncle Willie , um, who just passed away in, he actually passed on January 7th, which is Zora Neale Hurston's birthday. Uh , and I'm just putting the, connecting the pieces right now.

Debra:

Wow.

Tamara:

Yeah. Wow. Um, he was such a , um, griot. He kept all of the stories and he made them hilarious and funny and he could just go on and on and on. And , um, so much of him reminded me of some of the characters in the , um, in the, in the story. So I wanted to have, you know, we're talking about people sitting out on the porch, just, just talking, joking, playing, recalling , um, making up stories and, you know, I'm having fun, sometimes arguments, all of that. Um, I wanted to capture some of that from my real family. So that's my real uncle, uncle Willy. And when I, I told the family this , um , at the, during the , uh , funeral time, I was like, I've always wanted to record my uncle because , um, he's just unique. And now I feel like I have an, an opportunity to honor his voice to , um, with some of the recordings I have. So

Debra:

That is such an important part of the book as well. And I guess that's because it is such an important part of our, of our experience, you know, it's yeah, yeah.

Tamara:

It's congregating and assembling. And, you know, I think about how when , um, Black folks get together, I'm sure in other cultures as well, but I'm, you know, particularly Black folks, we are laughing and loud and, you know , um , making jokes and just falling out laughing. And it is just so entertaining. I learn so much, you know, from about people it's so much character and personality, like all of that. Um, it really gets, you know, Zora Neale Hurston captures that. And it's just one of the things I love about her work and who, who she was ,

Debra:

Uh, as a musician to, to recognize this and kind of be doing a similar thing , um, capturing important truths or , um ,

Tamara:

yeah.

Debra:

Yeah. Um,

Tamara:

I, I wanted to do a , um, documentary on my hometown and , um, it started with the Songs for Janie. So, you know, when I started getting recordings of my uncle and my mom and , um, you know, catching, catching some of these memos , um, then, you know, at first it was like, oh, I wanna, you know, put it on the album, like, which is a form of print. You know, I want it to be, you know, her, and then, you know, my interest in , um, capturing the history of, you know, the town and the people. Um, it, it grew , um, so I can say that it was because of that work, you know, and, and what Zora Hurston's life was about, you know, heavily influenced my, my creative , um, um, projects.

Debra:

Uh , how can listeners , uh , find more about Songs For Janie and the other projects that you are working on and have worked on?

Tamara:

Um, well, I have a website it's TamaraWellonsMusic . com, and you can go there to hear more about my work in general. Um, but you can also stream the Songs for Janie on title on Amazon. Like I said, thank you, Debra, for this conversation, because it really sparked something one) I didn't remember that it was 10 years and, and two) you know, with my uncle passing this year. And , um, and the listening to the work it's, I , I do feel inspired to, you know, to re-release , um, reimagine the, the music are Songs for Janie.

Kelsey:

Alright. So , um , it's time to launch into our game. And because Buzzfeed has a quiz about everything, we were able to find a quiz where we can find out which Their Eyes Were Watching God character each of us is so, first question, what is most important to you? Love, wealth, or happiness.

Hawa:

I'm torn because I'm torn between love and happiness. But I think I'm gonna go with happiness because with happiness, hopefully comes love.

Debra:

I'm torn too, but I'm gonna go with love because it's a more I'm, I'm, I'm expanding the I'm expanding what love means to be pretty all encompassing. I guess I like that.

Elizabeth:

Yeah. I, I was torn between wealth and love actually, But I chose love. I think that's important.

Kelsey:

I went happiness, cuz I think love and wealth can bring happiness, but um, I respect anyone who just says wealth.

Elizabeth:

I thought about it.

Kelsey:

Alright. What would you do if you found $100, invest it in stocks, hit the club or shop? And I do wanna say I'm really mad that it doesn't say $200 cuz that's an easy reference to the book. Right? Come on.

Elizabeth:

So my real answer would be like, I would go out to like a fancy dinner or something cuz like that's my weakness. But I feel like I should say hit the club because like it's an, an experience and that's what I'm gonna always choose. So I'm gonna go with that. Hit the club. Okay, Tea Cake.

Hawa:

I'm gonna say shop because my social anxiety is just not feeling the club. Right? I know it doesn't necessarily have to directly be the club also like hit the club has me thinking about like a song and I'm just gonna go with shop.

Debra:

Oh my gosh. The reality. My reality is not in any of those three because I would fret over whose it was and then not spend it at all. Just keep it, which isn't investing either. But I'm going to say that in my ideal life, I would hit the club because I'm also looking for an experience.

Kelsey:

I love that. Um, okay. What career sounds best to you? Politician, musician or writer?

Debra:

Musician.

Kelsey:

Ooh.

Elizabeth:

I'm choosing writer of those three.

Hawa:

This is a hard one because I definitely, when I wanna be a politician , um

Kelsey:

No

Hawa:

Sorry, Jody. Um , I'm torn between musician and writer, but I'm not particularly good at either of these things where like, I'm not good at making music, I don't know how to write, but I was talking about the other day. I was like, you know, if I ever wrote a book, which I would never do, I would totally write an essay collection. So I'm gonna go with writer.

Kelsey:

Okay. I'm going musician. My dream when I was a kid was to be a pop star. So I'm gonna let that dream live a little longer.

Elizabeth:

Yeah. And also like Hawa has totally foreshadowed that she's gonna write a book about essays

Hawa:

Oh yeah.

Kelsey:

You gotta, you gotta.

Hawa:

Y'all are funny.

Kelsey:

None of us will be surprised. Um, okay. What is your ideal vacation? Spot? The beach. A big city or the countryside?

Hawa:

The beach, baby.

Debra:

This is so pathetic, but big city is usually

Kelsey:

That's not pathetic.

Debra:

Well, I, I live And then I go on vacation. But when I think about it, yes,

Elizabeth:

It's like, I wanna be someone who will like, like the countryside, but I think I am a big city person.

Kelsey:

Yeah.

Elizabeth:

So I'm gonna go with that.

Kelsey:

Ideally I would pick a big city that also has like a beach really close by, but I get, I , I feel like if I'm going on vacation, I wanna do as much as I possibly can. So like a big city has more things to Do.

Hawa:

I'm not trying to do none of that. I just want to lay on the beach with my bikini, get some pictures with the books.

Kelsey:

Alright. What did we get?

Elizabeth:

Um , I got Janie Crawford.

Hawa:

What?

Kelsey:

So did I? And so did Debra.

Hawa:

So did I, which is really weird. Cause we all had completely different answers.

Multiple Voices:

[ unintelligible]

Hawa:

Our answers didn't overlap. Not once,

Elizabeth:

Not at all.

Hawa:

Who made this?

Elizabeth:

Who do you think you should have got?

Debra:

I would've been one of those horrible gossips on the porch Yeah, But that doesn't actually, that doesn't fit at all either. I don't know. Was there some sort of just go about, do your business ...the person that didn't even show up because they were so boring.

Hawa:

So it says here, Janie Crawford, you defy norms and you don't care what anyone else thinks about it. You're just looking for love, independence and some adventure in life. And while it may take you a little while to get there, you won't let anything stop you.

Kelsey:

I, I retook it with all complete opposite answers from all of us. And I did get Jody Stark. So there is at least one

Multiple Voices:

[laughter, unintelligible]

Elizabeth:

A version where there other..

Hawa:

Well, so I'm like, what would you have to say to get Tea Cake

Elizabeth:

Maybe choosing wealth. I think wealth definitely throws it off.

Debra:

Well, each episode we ask, whether our book passes, the I'm realizing right now, I've only read this word. Bech. Bechtel. That was my instinct.

Kelsey:

I think people say it either way.

Debra:

Okay. The Bechtel test, the Bechtel test asks whether a work features two female characters who talk to each other about something that doesn't involve men or boys. So Does Their Eyes Were Watching God pass?

Kelsey:

I don't think it does.

Hawa:

I was just about to say that. I honestly don't think it does. And it's hard because there are not a lot of female characters in this book to begin with. But when they do appear, they're typically gossiping about Janie and her experience.

Debra:

Th-this one tore me too. But I, you were gonna say something I can tell.

Elizabeth:

No, no. I wanna hear what you were gonna say

Debra:

Well, I, I, I was thinking, yeah, I'm not sure it does either, but going back to the frame with Phoebe, she has a real friend here and though a lot of what they talk about is kind of what's passed on. They, they do seem to have a warmth and some conversation that's not directly really to their , um, like they, I mean they're washing feet, you know, they're, I think Phoebe helps wash her feet or , uh , it it's, it seems like there's something there beyond just,

Kelsey:

I bet they have those conversations, but I don't know that they're on the page. It's like implied that those are happening.

Elizabeth:

Yeah. I will say maybe this is a controversial opinion, but I do feel like the Bechtel test is quite limiting for this book. Um, it just a reality where this character is not talking in relation to a man, kind of doesn't make sense because men decide so much of how you can move in society. So I mean, if it was the day where she could make her own decisions, then yeah. She's not gonna talk about, I would hope there's like other things coming up, but it's just like what you do for your husband. As soon as she gets married, that's like, it defines her life. So I think it's kind of an unfair test for this book.

Kelsey:

Well, just because it passes doesn't mean it's a bad book. Yeah. I think it does. I think it is intended to speak to those social pressures. So I think you're totally right, right.

Elizabeth:

I'm yeah. I, I just felt like it's like, of course she's gonna, they're gonna talk about men. Most of the book, not , um, it's, I'm not, I don't want to negate the usefulness of thinking about that in, in media, but I feel like specifically for this book, it's just like, was very unlikely that it was gonna be any conversations.

Hawa:

Well, that's it for this episode of these books made me join us next time when we'll discuss a book in which two sisters in Portland, Oregon struggle to get along. If you think, you know which book we're tackling next, drop us a tweet. We're @pgcmls on Twitter and #TheseBooksMadeMe.

Intro
What did this book mean to you?
Plot summary
Author bio
Hawa's Headspace
Discussion
Janie's coming of age arc
Portrayal of Black womanhood
Mrs. Turner
Zora Neale Hurston's empathy towards her characters
Janie's relationships
Tea Cake
Janie & Tea Cake
Hurricane and Tea Cake's fate
Janie in the aftermath
Hurston's spirituality
Prose & dialect
Portrayal/themes of Black people in stories
Final thoughts on the book
Tamara Wellons interview
Game segment
Bechtel test
Outro