My memories of “Their Eyes Were Watching God” begin with a high school English teacher nicknamed Huffs the Puffs.
I’ll note Ms. Huffman consented to the name (kind of, at least once) and no illegal substances or cigarettes were involved in its creation.
Anyway, I’m initially convinced I read “Their Eyes Were Watching God” in her English course, a class that required us to make art projects based on the works we studied.
Suddenly, I’m not so sure.
I might have read “Their Eyes Were Watching God” under the direction of professor Robin Woods.
She was my college instructor who ran discussions not by calling on raised hands, but by seeking input from students expecting to stare into space without interruption.
Either way, you can imagine my response when I learned the Chattahoochee Valley Libraries had selected Zora Neale Hurston’s novel for our Big Read:
“Will there be a test?”
Entries on required reading lists get there for a reason. They are usually well-written, thought-provoking and reflective of cultural values.
At the same time, “required reading” distinction is sometimes a double-edged sword for a novel.
It often means the book will be permanently regarded within the context of tests, vague essay assignments and the occasional instructor with a passion for giving impossible pop quizzes.
So in many cases, your decades-later perception of the book is distorted.
I remember sifting through “Their Eyes Were Watching God” with a highlighter at some ungodly hour, wondering how many pages of the challenging dialect I could skip without losing the book’s meaning.
Now, however, I’ve finally hit a point in my reading habits where I’m willing — and eager — to revisit the novels previously confined to final exams.
The result: sometimes a new interpretation, sometimes a confirmed suspicion, but always a sense of freedom and flexibility.
That’s why I urge you to pick up a copy of “Their Eyes Were Watching God” and participate in some of the remaining Big Read activities.
I still can’t remember whether I read the novel under the supervision of Ms. Huffman or Professor Woods.
Perhaps my failure to do so is a testament to one of their greatest teaching achievements:
The lesson that books aren’t confined to a specific test or semester, but are instead lifelong tools that transcend the limits of time and space.
Sonya Sorich, reporter, can be reached at 706-571-8516.