Published in 1937, this novel was written in only seven weeks and you
can almost tell that from the swiftness of the narrative. Now
considered a classic, it didn’t always have such an appreciative
Janie Crawford is raised in West Florida by her grandmother and
the white people Nanny works for, and has been called so many
different names that her nickname is Alphabet.
When she’s sixteen, Nanny encourages Janie to marry the old
farmer nearby, who has sixty acres, where she’ll be settled and
set for life. Nanny pleads with her to do this —to give comfort
to Nanny before she dies.
“Have some sympathy fuh me. Put me down easy, Janie,
Ah’m a cracked plate.”
Well, before we get much further along, you might guess that
a great deal of the novel is written in dialect—but!– it’s pretty
good—and slows you down a little so that you can savor what
Hurston is saying . . .And I’d be surprised if you didn’t enjoy the
humor in the writing, too.
And, before you jump to any conclusions, this book is not another
in the line of black girls who seldom find happiness, like the
novels you’ve already read. This book preceded those!
And it took a step aside to proclaim that Janie has her own
thoughts and gumption, and her finding her way makes enjoyable
The background is a town called Eatonville, and it’s an all Negro
town, with a mayor and judge and stores, etc. Hurston, the author,
grew up in just such a town and saw black figures in authority
every day of her childhood. This book breathes fresh air into
a coming of age story, albeit with a few bumps along the way.
Janie marries three times—I won’t spoil the story for you, but
you come to admire the way she handles tricky, difficult situations
and becomes her own person. The book is written with grace
and humor and simplicity. You’ll like it, I think.