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<anon I1="BLANK" I2="BLANK">Their Eyes Were Watching God Chapter One Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men. Now, women forget all those things they don't want to remember, and remember everything they don't want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly. So the beginning of this was a woman and she had come back from burying the dead. Not the dead of sick and ailing with friends at the pillow and the feet. She had come back from the sodden and the bloated; the sudden dead, their eyes flung wide open in judgment. The people all saw her come because it was sundown. The sun was gone, but he had left his footprints in the sky. It was the time for sitting on porches beside the road. It was the time to hear things and talk. These sitters had been tongueless, earless, eyeless conveniences all day long. Mules and other brutes had occupied their skins. But now, the sun and the bossman were gone, so the skins felt powerful and human. They became lords of sounds and lesser things. They passed nations through their mouths. They sat in judgment. Seeing the woman as she was made them remember the envy they had stored up from other times. So they chewed up the back parts of their minds and swallowed with relish. They made burning statements with questions, and killing tools out of laughs. It was mass cruelty. A mood come alive, Words walking without masters; walking altogether like harmony in a song. "What she doin coming back here in dem overhalls? Can't she find no dress to put on? -- Where's dat blue satin dress she left here in? -- Where all dat money her husband took and died and left her? -- What dat ole forty year ole 'oman doin' wid her hair swingin' down her back lak some young gal? Where she left dat young lad of a boy she went off here wid? -- Thought she was going to marry? -- Where he left her? -- What he done wid all her money? -- Betcha he off wid some gal so young she ain't even got no hairs -- why she don't stay in her class?" When she got to where they were she turned her face on the bander log and spoke. They scrambled a noisy "good evenin'" and left their mouths setting open and their ears full of hope. Her speech was pleasant enough, but she kept walking straight on to her gate. The porch couldn't talk for looking. The men noticed her firm buttocks like she had grape fruits in her hip pockets; the great rope of black hair swinging to her waist and unraveling in the wind like a plume; then her pugnacious breasts trying to b ore holes in her shirt. They, the men, were saving with the mind what they lost with the eye. The women took the faded shirt and muddy overalls and laid them away for remembrance. It was a weapon against her strength and if it turned out of no significance, still it was a hope that she might fall to their level some day. But nobody moved, nobody spoke, nobody even thought to swallow spit until after her gate slammed behind her. Pearl Stone opened her mouth and laughed real hard because she didn't know what else to do. She fell all over Mrs. Sumpkins while she laughed. Mrs. Sumpkins snorted violently and sucked her teeth. "Humph! Y'all let her worry yuh. You ain't like me. Ah ain't got her to study 'bout. If she ain't got manners enough to stop and let folks know how she been malkin' out, let her g'wan! " "She ain't even worth talkin' after," Lulu Moss drawled through her nose. "She sits high, but she looks low. Dat's what Ah say 'bout dese ole women runnin' after young boys." Pheoby Watson hitched her rocking chair forward before she spoke. "Well, nobody don't know if it's anything to tell or not. Me, Ah'm her best friend, and Ah don't know." "Maybe us don't know into things lak, you do, but we all know how she went 'way from here and us sho seen her come back. 'Tain't no use in your tryin' to cloak no ole woman lak Janie Starks, Pheoby, friend or no friend." "At dat she ain't so ole as some of y'all dat's talking." "She's way past forty to my knowledge, Pheoby." "No more'n forty at de outside." "She's 'way too old for a boy like Tea Cake." "Tea Cake ain't been no boy for some time. He's round thirty his ownself." "Don't keer what it was, she could stop and say a few words with us. She act like we done done something to her," Pearl Stone complained. "She de one been doin' wrong." "You mean, you mad 'cause she didn't stop and tell us all her business; Anyhow, what you ever know her to do so bad as y'all make out? The worst thing Ah ever knowedher to do was taking a few years offa her age and dat ain't never harmed nobody. Y'all makes me tired. De way you talkin' you'd think de folks in dis town didn't do nothin' in de bed 'cept praise de Lawd. You have to 'scuse me, 'cause Ah'm bound to go take her some supper." Pheoby stood up sharply. "Don't mind us," Lulu smiled, "just go right ahead, us can mind yo' house for you till you git back. Mah supper is done. You bettah go see how she feel. You kin let de rest of us know." Their Eyes Were Watching God . Copyright © by Zora Hurston. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from Their Eyes Were Watching God: A Novel by Zora Neale Hurston All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.</anon>
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New York Times Book Review
no one becomes "not racist," despite a tendency by Americans to identify themselves that way. We can only strive to be "antiracist" on a daily basis, to continually rededicate ourselves to the lifelong task of overcoming our country's racist heritage. We learn early the racist notion that white people have more because they are more; that people of color have less because they are less. 1 had internalized this worldview by my high school graduation, seeing myself and my race as less than other people and blaming other blacks for racial inequities. To build a nation of equal opportunity for everyone, we need to dismantle this spurious legacy of our common upbringing. One of the best ways to do this is by reading books. Not books that reinforce old ideas about who we think we are, what we think America is, what we think racism is. Instead, we need to read books that are difficult or unorthodox, that don't go down easily. Books that force us to confront our self-serving beliefs and make us aware that "I'm not racist" is a slogan of denial. The reading list below is composed of just such books - a combination of classics, relatively obscure works and a few of recent vintage. Think of it as a stepladder to antiracism, each step addressing a different stage of the journey toward destroying racism's insidious hold on all of us. Biology "FATAL INVENTION: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-First Century," by Dorothy Roberts (New Press, 2011). No book destabilized my fraught notions of racial distinction and hierarchy - the belief that each race had different genes, diseases and natural abilities - more than this vigorous critique of the "biopolitics of race." Roberts, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, shows unequivocally that all people are indeed created equal, despite political and economic special interests that keep trying to persuade us otherwise. Ethnicity "WEST INDIAN IMMIGRANTS: A Black Success Story?" by Suzanne Model (Russell Sage Foundation, 2008). Some of the same forces have led Americans to believe that the recent success of black immigrants from the Caribbean proves either that racism does not exist or that the gap between African-Americans and other groups in income and wealth is their own fault. But Model's meticulous study, emphasizing the self-selecting nature of the West Indians who emigrate to the United States, argues otherwise, showing me, a native of racially diverse New York City, how such notions - the foundation of ethnic racism - are unsupported by the facts. Body "THE CONDEMNATION OF BLACKNESS: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America," by Khalil Gibran Muhammad (Harvard University, 2010). "Black" and "criminal" are as wedded in America as "star" and "spangled." Muhammad's book traces these ideas to the late 19th century, when racist policies led to the disproportionate arrest and incarceration of blacks, igniting urban whites' fears and bequeathing tenaciously racist stereotypes. Culture "THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD," by Zora Neale Hurston (1937). Of course, the black body exists within a wider black culture - one Hurston portrayed with grace and insight in this seminal novel. She defies racist Americans who would standardize the cultures of white people or sanitize, eroticize, erase or assimilate those of blacks. Behavior "THE NEGRO ARTIST AND THE RACIAL MOUNTAIN," by Langston Hughes (The Nation, June 23, 1926). "We younger Negro artists who create now intend to express our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame," Hughes wrote nearly 100 years ago. "We know we are beautiful. And ugly too." We are all imperfectly human, and these imperfections are also markers of human equality. Color "THE BLUEST EYE," by Toni Morrison (1970); "THE BLACKER THE BERRY," by Wallace Thurman (1929). Beautiful and hardworking black people come in all shades. If dark people have less it is not because they are less, a moral eloquently conveyed in these two classic novels, stirring explorations of colorism. Whiteness "THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MALCOLM X," by Malcolm X and Alex Haley (1965); "DYING OF WHITENESS: How the Politics of Racial Resentment Is Killing America's Heartland," by Jonathan M. Metzl (Basic Books, 2019). Malcolm X began by adoring whiteness, grew to hate white people and, ultimately, despised the false concept of white superiority - a killer of people of color. And not only them: low- and middle-income white people too, as Metzl's timely book shows, with its look at Trump-era policies that have unraveled the Affordable Care Act and contributed to rising gun suicide rates and lowered life expectancies. Blackness "LOCKING UP OUR OWN: Crime and Punishment in Black America," by James Forman Jr. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2017). Just as Metzl explains how seemingly pro-white policies are killing whites, Forman explains how blacks themselves abetted the mass incarceration of other blacks, beginning in the 1970s. Amid rising crime rates, black mayors, judges, prosecutors and police chiefs embraced toughon-crime policies that they promoted as pro-black with tragic consequences for black America. Class "BLACK MARXISM: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition," by Cedric J. Robinson (Zed Press, 1983). Black America has been economically devastated by what Robinson calls racial capitalism. He chastises white Marxists (and black capitalists) for failing to acknowledge capitalism's racial character, and for embracing as sufficient an interpretation of history founded on a European vision of class struggle. Spaces "WAITING 'TIL THE MIDNIGHT HOUR: A Narrative History of Black Power in America," by Peniel E. Joseph (Holt, 2006). As racial capitalism deprives black communities of resources, assimilationists ignore or gentrify these same spaces in the name of "development" and "integration." To be antiracist is not only to promote equity among racial groups, but also among their spaces, something the black power movement of the 1960s and 1970s understood well, as Joseph's chronicle makes clear. Gender "HOW WE GET FREE: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective," edited by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor (Haymarket, 2017); "WELL-READ BLACK GIRL: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves," edited by Glory Edim (Ballantine, 2018). I began my career studying, and too often admiring, activists who demanded black (male) power over black communities, including over black women, whom they placed on pedestals and under their feet. Black feminist literature, including these anthologies, helps us recognize black women "as human, levelly human," as the Combahee River Collective demanded to be seen in 1977. Sexuality "REDEFINING REALNESS: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More," by Janet Mock (Atria, 2014); "SISTER OUTSIDER: Essays and Speeches," by Audre Lorde (Crossing Press, 1984). 1 grew up in a Christian household thinking there was something abnormal and immoral about queer blacks. My racialized transphobia made Mock's memoir an agonizing read - just as my racialized homophobia made Lorde's essays and speeches a challenge. But pain often precedes healing. By not running from the books that pain us, we can allow them to transform us. 1 ran from antiracist books most of my life. But now 1 can't stop running after them - scrutinizing myself and my society, and in the process changing both.