African-American Literature · book review · fiction · non-fiction

“They seemed to be staring at the dark,but their eyes were watching God”

 Book Reviews

I decided to put these together because I just felt like they belonged together. Both of these books are books I will re-read many times over in my life. Both books have left me thinking and almost haunted Melissa actually uses parts of Their Eyes Were Watching God in Sister Citizen so they are the perfect books to put together.

First Up

Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America


Written By Melissa V.Harris-Perry

Published September 20th 2011 by Yale University Press

300 Pages

Jezebel’s sexual lasciviousness, Mammy’s devotion, and Sapphire’s outspoken anger—these are among the most persistent stereotypes that black women encounter in contemporary American life. Hurtful and dishonest, such representations force African-American women to navigate a virtual crooked room that shames them and shapes their experiences as citizens. Many respond by assuming a mantle of strength that may convince others, and even themselves, that they do not need help. But as a result, the unique political issues of black women are often ignored and marginalized. (synopsis from goodreads)

So I came across this book thanks to the Clutch Magazine list that I am steadily working my way through. No lie I have been introduced to what will go down as some of my favorite books of all time thanks to Clutch. Sister Citizen will be near the top of the list.  Sister Citizen is classified as a text-book and while it definitely teaches you something it’s never dry or boring. The book begins  with a look at Katrina the aftermath and its direct impact on black women. The chapter on the crooked room quite honestly changed my life. This idea was so profound that I had to stop and read it again before I moved on. Melissa then tackles the 3 pervasive myths surrounding black women that of sapphire, mammy, and Jezebel. Those names might not be familiar to you but trust me the ideas are if you’ve ever watched TV.  Melissa moves to the strong black woman idea and really examines  why although it sounds positive is often damaging.  Towards the end Melissa takes a lot of time examining stats and really laying things out in a very analytical way. There is a quick look at the church and it’s effect on how black women see themselves.  She ends the book with a look at Michelle Obama and the impact she’s had on the image of a black woman. Whatever your political leanings it can not be denied that Mrs. Obama has had a huge impact on black woman,how they view themselves and,how others view them.  For me the book had a great flow and was easy to follow.  This is the kind of book that needs to be read more than once.

Their Eyes Were Watching God


Written By Zora Neale Hurston

Published December 1st 1998 by Harper Perennial (first published 1937)

193 pages

One of the most important works of twentieth-century American literature, Zora Neale Hurston’s beloved 1937 classic, Their Eyes Were Watching God, is an enduring Southern love story sparkling with wit, beauty, and heartfelt wisdom. Told in the captivating voice of a woman who refuses to live in sorrow, bitterness, fear, or foolish romantic dreams, it is the story of fair-skinned, fiercely independent Janie Crawford, and her evolving selfhood through three marriages and a life marked by poverty, trials, and purpose. A true literary wonder, Hurston’s masterwork remains as relevant and affecting today as when it was first published—perhaps the most widely read and highly regarded novel in the entire canon of African-American literature (synopsis from goodreads)

I will make this short since we should know what’s going on right? Here’s what I though after I finished the book I love Janie Crawford. To me she was a strong smart, capable woman who finally found her way. So much of her life was imposed on her instead something she chose. When she finally stands up for herself I though this is the woman I want to be. The vernacular that’s used in the book may be strange at first for some but after a while most people will adjust to it.  I actually found myself reading out loud after a while and really enjoying the dialect. The writing is beautiful and poetic especially when set against the stark reality and grits of the story.  The story would be too sad and hard to get through in the hands of someone else.  I am anxious to get my hands on some more Hurston asap!

” She didn’t read books so she didn’t know that she was the world and the heavens boiled down to a drop. “


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