You Can’t Judge a Book By Its Title: Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

14 Nov

Their Eyes Were Watching God has always been a favorite read of mine ever since college. It’s so much more than the title and I am fascinated with novels that are more than what their titles imply. Of course, the title plays a major role within the book but it’s not what resonated with me the most about the book.

There is this quote that always stood out to me even as I got deeper into the plot.

“She had an inside and an outside now and suddenly she know how not to mix them” (Hurston 72).

I have always touched upon this idea of identity, self and truth in many of my other posts, and how this all overlaps in one way or another. This is because truth and what is truth and how truth and beauty can not only be subjective but also incomprehensibly unbiased deeply intrigue me. How can something beautiful to all be ugly to one, but then in the end beauty and ugly are truths that everyone feels and agrees with. Now I know this may seem confusing and complex, but stay with me. What I mean is that the meaning of beauty remains the same but what is defined as beautiful is what changes.

On this note I love noticing things that are hidden within novels that others may not see. As farfetched – far-reaching – as this may seem I feel as though the title has a lot less to do with religion and a lot to do with keeping one’s eyes one oneself. There is a part of the book where her hair is tied together – no pun intended – with the word “glory” to which to me seems biblical, spiritual, and almost godlike. Wrestling with this and how it connects with other blogs I have written, I went on a symbolic and metaphorical word journey.

How does her hair and all its “glory” relate to having an inside and an outside? It could simply mean that she has her organs and then she has her looks, or she had her soul and then her spirit, or even she had a reality and then an appearance – if we look into the literal. I think it meant that she had vulnerability and she had strength. This can tie into having a reality that you portray about yourself and an appearance that you show to the world. We all appear as someone to others and it can be a form of truth of who we are but it’s not all of it.

We all have an inside and an outside. What I find fascinating is that they can’t be mixed. Of course she has her own reasons within the book as to why she knows not to mix them, but it’s an enlightening concept that really hit me with this novel.

All this to say – as my downward spiral did not serve this book justice – this book is definitely worth a read and is much more than just college material.

Besides the book in print you can also check out from BCCLS Libraries a movie adaptation starring Halle Berry and an audiobook on CD.  Ebook and digital audiobook versions are available from eLibraryNJ, and a digital audiobook version from Hoopla.  If you are interested in learning more about the author, you can check out the documentary, Zora Neale Hurston: Jump at the Sun available to stream from Kanopy.

Written By
Sherissa Hernandez
Adult Programming Assistant

What books have you read for school that resonate with you even more now?  Share them with our readers in the comments!

How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them by Jason Stanley

7 Nov

As the child of Holocaust survivors, Yale philosophy professor Jason Stanley grew up with an interest in how functioning democracies could turn toward fascism. While many students have held on to the post-World War II consensus that fascism was defeated and relegated to the history books, Stanley wrote How Fascism Works in response to the rise of fascist movements around the globe over the past several years. Using a blend of history, economics, psychology, and sociology, Stanley explains in a clear and concise terms how fascism is able to take hold of a society and why people living in democracies should be concerned about it. This is an important piece of scholarship for anyone with an interest in how we got to the point where we currently are in world history.

Stanley begins by acknowledging that “fascism” is an often over and imprecisely used term, but that there are tactics that are similar between fascist states such as the use of propaganda, the creation of a mythical past, extreme nationalism, and calls for “law and order.” From the Armenian Genocide to the rise of authoritarian figures like Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines and Viktor Orban in Hungary, fascist regimes use economic crises to foment hatred by the majority against the minority. Fascism works when different racial, religious, and social groups are unable to build solidarity with each other and are instead divided and isolated from each other. That is why Labor unions, where workers of different backgrounds are most like to come together to support common goals, are often the most fiercely attacked under fascist regimes.

Stanley’s book may seem bleak, but understanding the conditions under which fascism arises can also feel empowering by providing the reader with the tools necessary to navigate the global politics of today. What I enjoyed most about Stanley’s book is how his writing remains accessible when explaining a topic that is incredibly complex and volatile. Stanley is also hesitant to make any conclusions about whether contemporary societies should be considered fascist or not. Rather, his strength lies in explaining fascist tactics that are being used in even the healthiest of democracies. By adding this level of nuance, Stanley creates a work that is more compelling and expansive than it would have been if he had only analyzed the fascist states of Nazi Germany and Mussolini’s Italy that most American students are familiar with.

Written by
Karl Schwartz
Young Adult Librarian

%d bloggers like this: