2013 Challenges, Allen Ginsberg, American Lit, banned books, censorship, Classics, Classics Club, Drugs, Events, Fiction, Gay Lit, Giveaways, GLBT, Jack Kerouac, LGBT, Literature, Read-Alongs, Reading Challenges, Reading Event, Sexuality, William S. Burroughs

The Beats of Summer: A Reading Event! (Sign-Up Post)

Welcome to the sign-up post for:

BeatsOfSummer-ButtonThe Beats of Summer: A Reading Event!

Summertime is coming, and what better time than Summer to immerse ourselves in the works of the most rebellious, daring, and “hot” generation of American writers??

For this event, the goal is to read as many pieces of “Beat Generation” literature as you want to, from June 1st through July 14th. Audiobooks, fiction, poetry, and non-fiction all count, as long as the writer is considered to be a part of the Beat Generation.  Memoirs, biographies, essays, theory/criticism or other works of non-fiction written about The Beats are also acceptable!

Update: We are looking for volunteers to provide Guest Posts and/or offer Giveaways throughout the event. If you would be interesting in participating in this capacity, please fill out This Form. And Thanks!

What is the Beat Generation?

“In American in the 1950s, a new cultural and literary movement staked its claim on the nation’s consciousness. The Beat Generation was never a large movement in terms of sheer numbers, but in influence and cultural status they were more visible than any other competing aesthetic. The Beat Generation saw runaway capitalism as destructive to the human spirit and antithetical to social equality. In addition to their dissatisfaction with consumer culture, the Beats railed against the stifling prudery of their parents’ generation. The taboos against frank discussions of sexuality were seen as unhealthy and possibly damaging to the psyche. In the world of literature and art, the Beats stood in opposition to the clean, almost antiseptic formalism of the early twentieth century Modernists. They fashioned a literature that was more bold, straightforward, and expressive than anything that had come before.”  –The Literature Network

I will post throughout the event to  discuss different subjects related to The Beat Generation, its writers, and its influences on later movements in literature, film, and music, as well as my own reviews of the Beat Generation books that I finish.  I will also be offering giveaways, and I am hopeful that some participants will be interested in writing guest posts or hosting giveaways of their own, to make this more interactive!

Below is a  list of writers and works of The Beat Generation.  This list is by no means comprehensive, it is simply a starting point.

Major Writers:
Richard Brautigan
William S. Burroughs
Neal Cassady
Gregory Corso
Diane DiPrima
Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Allen Ginsberg
John Clellon Holmes
Joyce Johnson
Hettie Jones
Jack Kerouac
Joanne Kyger
Gary Snyder
Carl Solomon

Important Works:
Dharma Bums
Gasoline (poetry)
Howl (poetry)
Minor Characters (memoir)
Naked Lunch
On the Road
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (memoir)

Affiliated Writers/Biographers:
James Campbell (This is the Beat Generation)
Carolyn Cassady (Off the Road)
Ken Kesey (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest)
Brenda Knight (Women of the Beat Generation)
Matt Theado (The Beats: A Literary Reference)
Tom Wolfe (The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test)

In the meantime, if you would like to host a giveaway or provide a guest post, please: CLICK HERE.

And if you want to sign-up to participate in The Beats of Summer (yay!), just leave a comment on this post saying YOU’RE IN! Maybe include some of the books you hope to read.  I plan to read Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey, Howl by Allen Ginsberg, and Desolation Angels by Jack Kerouac.

Please also post the button somewhere on your blog (in an announcement post or in your blog’s side-bar) so that we can spread the word, gather excitement, and encourage participation.  It goes without saying that this is meant to be a positive, fun, and educational event – it’s an at-will project, so negativity is a no-go!

Sign-ups are open from now through June 15th.  If you sign-up after June 15th, you can still absolutely participate, but you may not be eligible for some of the early giveaway prizes.

To Share/Discuss on Twitter, Use Hashatag #BeatsOfSummer

banned books, Banned Books Week, Giveaway, Giveaways, Lois Lowry, Uncategorized

Giveway: The Complete Giver Quartet!

As many of you know (particularly those of you who have been keeping up with this blog for years), one of the bookish causes dearest to me is Censorship/Book Banning Awareness.  I try to argue for open-mindedness whenever & wherever necessary, which means I’m often fighting against censorship in its many and varied forms.  Yes, censorship is still very much alive.

This is why, every year, I participate in Banned Books Week and why, for a long time, I hosted a regular meme called “Saturdays, Uncensored.”

This year, I am happy to participate in a Giveaway for Banned Books Week.  But, I am also excited to offer a supplementary giveaway of THE GIVER QUARTET.

Lois Lowry’s The Giver literally changed my life.  I know that might sound a bit over-the-top, but it’s true.  I read the book for the first time when I was twelve, and I have read it numerous times since.  Its message, one of tolerance, individuality, and acceptance, is deeply profound.  It is a message still important, after all these years.  More than that, though, The Giver was the first book I read that I actually loved.  It opened up this whole new world to me and now, nearly twenty years later, here I am, an out-and-out “reader” to the nth degree.

Today, the long-anticipated fourth and final book in The Giver quartet, Son, goes on sale.  In celebration of its release + the fact that it is Banned Books Week (and this book is often challenged), I wanted to do something special for my subscribers and offer up one complete set of The Giver quartet in hardcover!  The series, though not LGBT related, does also fit into the theme of our The Literary Others event, in that it encourages compassion and respect for those who may be different from us.

So, there you have it.  All four books in the series, in the beautiful hardback editions pictured above, could be yours!

Prize Details:

The Giver by Lois Lowry (The Giver Quartet #1)

Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry (The Giver Quartet #2)

Messenger by Lois Lowry (The Giver Quartet #3)

Son by Lois Lowry (The Giver Quartet #4)


1. Be 13+ (with parental permission to enter if under 13).

2. Be a subscriber of this blog.

–You can subscribe by e-mail (right-side menu) or through WordPress (if a member).

3. Fill out THIS FORM. (Giveaway has ended)

4. Winner will need to respond to my e-mail within 48 hours or new winner will be selected.

5. One entry per person. Multiple entries will disqualify you.

6. International.

You can earn additional entries (see Entry Form) by:

(+1) – Following me on Twitter (@RoofBeamReader)

(+1) – Liking my Facebook Page (Click Here)

(+2) – Tweeting this Message:  @RoofBeamReader is giving away The Giver Quartet by Lois Lowry! Visit http://wp.me/p1n6kW-Zg and enter for your chance to win all 4 books!

That’s it! Good Luck!  

Banned Books Week ends on October 6th, so that will be the last day I take entries for this giveaway.

banned books, Banned Books Week, Giveaway, Giveaway Hop, Giveaways

Banned Books Week: Giveaway Hop!

One Lucky Follower Will Win:

Any book of his/her choosing FROM THIS LIST, up to $20 USD, to be shipped from The Book Depository.

*Note: Books offered are from the Top 10 Most Challenged lists, 2001-2011.

This Giveaway is Open to any location where The Book Depository Ships. 


1. Be 13+ (with parental permission to enter if under 13).

2. Be a subscriber of this blog.

–You can subscribe by e-mail (right-side menu) or through WordPress (if a member).

3. Fill out THIS FORM. (Giveaway has ended)

4. Winner will need to respond to my e-mail within 48 hours or new winner will be selected.

5. One entry per person. Multiple entries will disqualify you.

You can earn additional entries (see Entry Form) by:

-Following me on Twitter (@RoofBeamReader)

-Liking my Facebook Page (Click Here)

That’s it! Good Luck!  

Click Here for a list of other Midsummer’s Eve Giveaway Hop Participants

Click Here to visit I Read Banned Books

Click Here to Join October’s “The Literary Others: An LGBT Reading Event

banned books, censorship, Saturday Uncensored, William Faulkner

Saturday’s Uncensored – William Faulkner

“We do not fear censorship for we have no wish to offend with improprieties or obscenities, but we do demand, as a right, the liberty to show the dark side of wrong, that we may illuminate the bright side of virtue.” – D.W. Griffith

Welcome to to another installment of Saturdays, Uncensored! the only weekly meme hosted here at RBR.net.  The purpose of this weekly feature is to bring continued scrutiny and awareness to the on-going, destructive practice of censorship and banning books.

Also important to mention this week are two major events coming soon to Roof Beam Reader.  The first is a Literary Giveaway Hop, hosted over at Leeswamme’s Blog.  I believe there is still time to sign-up, if you would like to host a Giveaway on your own blog. The only caveat is that the Giveaway must be “literary” in nature (so nothing strictly YA, sub-genre fiction, paranormal romance, etc.).  I will be hosting a powerhouse giveaway here at RBR.net, with a few different “themed” prize packs, so definitely mark your calendars for February 19th!

The second event is a guest post by Laura Kreitzer, author of Phantom Universe.  She will be here to talk about her book and the darkly terrifying realities which inspired it.  The book comes out on February 15th, and Laura’s guest post will be available here at RBR.net on release date. Definitely stop by on Feb. 15th to read her very powerful and enlightening post, and interact with me and the author about it all.

Okay! Now that all of the little details about this month’s activities are out of the way, it is on to the good stuff!  This week, in Saturdays, Uncensored!, we take a look at a work by one of America’s greatest writers, William Faulkner.

William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying is an exploration of family, society, and mortality.  The Bundren family, led by their bumbling but ultimately calculating father, travels by horse and buggy from their small farm into the city of Jefferson, Alabama to bury their dead mother.  The trip takes days, due to weather and various calamities, and what the reader learns about each character, and the characters about one another, ends up being the redeeming trait for a would-be-simple trip gone wildly awry.

All-in-all, I found this to be one of Faulkner’s more accessible novels.  For literature lovers who are interested in reading Faulkner but who have been dissuaded by reviews/descriptions of his more ambitious works or who have perhaps started those novels and given up, this might be a substantive, meaningful compromise.  While I did find some fault with the novel, particularly in the lack of “meaty” scenes and character interaction, I was still generally happy with characterization itself, as well as the story and it’s ironic, darkly humorous ending.  The last few lines of the novel, when Mr. Bundren’s ultimate purpose and decision are revealed to his family and the reader, reminded of a Vonnegut-type wit and total exasperation for humankind.  This, of course, was right up my alley, and it made a “good” read, for me, pretty great in the end.

According to the American Library Association, As I Lay Dying was banned or challenged at least four times between 1986 and 1994. The most common reasons for these challenges were that the book “questioned the existence of God” or had “obscene passages.”  The “obscene” passages most at issue were mainly two: one which dealt with a character contemplating abortion, and the other a passage about masturbation.Now, I don’t know what high school was like in the 1980s and 1990s, but from what I remember of it- masturbation was was talked about constantly, at least by the male portion of the student body, so wouldn’t the presence of it in a classic, heralded text do something to, I don’t know, validate the human condition? I’m also disturbed that this book would be challenged over its inclusion of abortion, because the way that this particular book dealt with that issue is one of the most honest and moving examples I can recall.  It paid great attention to the “thought process” and physical/emotional strain on the mother. As for the primary complaint, that the book “questions the existence of God” and “uses God’s name in vain,” come on. Really?  I mean, I can understand that there are still some wing nuts out there who would not want to read a book for these reasons, but that a public school district actually banned the book for it?  I am flabbergasted by this, and it leaves me wondering why the few nutters who shout the loudest are continuously allowed to be the ones making decisions for all the more moderate, sensible parents.  Where are the reasonable arguments – and why aren’t they resonating just as loudly down the school hallways?

ALA Banned Books Week, banned books, censorship, Saturday Uncensored

Saturdays, Uncensored! Thoughtful Musings

Good Day, Readers:

Since I have the honor of working tomorrow, I will probably not be able to do my typical Saturdays, Uncensored! post.  So, instead, I am cross-posting my guest post on censorship and banned books, which you can also find at Smash Attack Reads.  It generated a great dialogue amongst her followers, so I’m hoping my readers are equally interested and willing to dive in! Also, since the ALA’s annual Banned Books Week begins next Saturday, September 25th, I figured this was a great way to get ourselves ramped up.

 Censorship: What’s With the Expurgation, Mr. Bogus?


In this day and age, the idea of censorship in books seems almost laughable. Most people certainly tend to believe that censorship in fiction went out of fashion in the 1960s (or sooner). Sadly, this just isn’t the case. Books continue to be challenged on a regular basis, particularly by parents who want the books pulled out of school district libraries. So, why should we care?

Well, for me it is a philosophical stance – an argument for personal freedoms. It is fine to censor what you or your children read – that is your right as a conscientious adult and caregiver, but does your right to choose your own reading material supersede the right of an author to present his or her thoughts? Should this ever be the case?

What comes to mind for me at the moment is the rather heated debate that has been surrounding the author Ellen Hopkins lately. I recently read my first Hopkins book, Tricks, and while I loved the prose and the plot, I found myself understanding the desire some parents might have to “protect” their children from the “bad” things. Interestingly enough, when reflecting on this epiphany, I realized that as a junior high or high school reader, I would have loved and devoured the book, but, on the other hand, if I had children of that age, I would probably want to keep them as far away from these books as possible. The automatic urge, then, is to push the bad things away; to make things better; to hide what we don’t want our children to see or learn too soon. This urge is the noble monster, though, which ultimately takes us astray and distracts us from being proactive in educating our kids in relation to the world so that they will be prepared. When we hide things from them, what good does it really do? Ultimately, the argument should be stripped down to individual tastes and choice and not to anybody’s “right” or power over another’s ideas. There exists within each of us no inherent right to censor someone else’s thoughts, dreams, or opinions, but there does exist in us a right to choose what is best for ourselves. This is the heart of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and the sentiment, at its core, was born with man’s first thought.

There are limits, of course. Should we be allowed to print the names and addresses of real people, for instance, and slander them politically, socially, or culturally? No, I think not – but this isn’t so much a case for censorship as it is a testament of common human decency and respect for others’ privacy (another American social protection, though this one perhaps even more at risk – but I digress!). This is why biographers have such a strict code of ethics and why they are scrutinized so very closely by their critics and peers.

Banned Books: Let’s Talk Some Trash.

 In fiction, though, in the land of make-believe, as long as reality-based characters are shrewdly disguised in parody and satire, and social opinions are handled with a respectful nod to dialogue, rather than a goading incite toward violence, then authors should have the freedom to express what they feel should be expressed! Let’s not forget Mark Twain, that clever so-and-so, whose greatest work of fiction, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, at first could not get off the ground because the publishers were forced to abandon sales of the book due to its many challenges by the public (and private) interests. Twain went door-to-door to sell his first printing of the novel (oh, if I could only get my hand on one of those!) because he knew it was important and, thankfully, the rest of the country and the world eventually picked up on this fact as well. Shockingly, Huckleberry Finn still holds a place on many of the “banned and challenged books” lists today. The reasons cited for challenges recently tend to be for depictions of violence and for what some call a derogatory depiction of class and race. These people are wrong, of course, but at least the argument has moved from the original inane charges of “use of slang” and “depictions of slavery as inhuman.”

Basically, this is my long-winded way of saying – fight censorship and the practice of banning books because it’s the right thing to do. Great works of literature (and, yes, bad ones too) will always be challenged for some reason. Many of the greatest books in history were censored at one point and an insane number of English-language novels were banned from publication in or shipment to the United States. While censorship laws of the 1960s and 1970s eventually opened the flood-gates, the risk still pervades and those who do the challenging take different approaches and tactics, making new claims to request censorship of the same books. As Mad-Eye Moody would say, “Constant Vigilance!”


So, do you agree with my sentiments? Do you disagree? I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas on the subject. Obviously, censorship and banned books are often lumped into the same category, but they are different things and it is feasible that some of you may be okay with censorship but not okay with altogether banning books (or vice versa). Some of you might agree with me that it is up to adults to choose their books based on their own tastes and to monitor their children’s reading, while others might find it perfectly acceptable for schools to pull books that are deemed inappropriate off of their library shelves. So – share! Leave a comment below and let’s get a dialogue going!

You can read the full guest post here.


banned books, Saturday Uncensored

Saturday, Uncensored! (#5)

“If she could have done one thing to make absolutely sure that every single person in this school will read your interview, it was banning it!” – J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix)


Hello! And Welcome to Week 5 of my Banned Book themed weekly post, Saturday, Uncensored! This meme is meant to bring continued and renewed attention to the dangers of censorship and banning books.

As always, I thank you all for your continued support and encouragement. I greatly appreciate your personal stories, too!  If you are interested in the theme and/or getting involved, I would highly encourage you to visit deletecensorship.org. This fantastic website has great material on the cause, and I personally have purchased some of the anti-censorship related items, like book totes and a mouse pad. Of course, I’m a bit of a nerd like that.

Now, on to the good stuff! This week, in Saturdays, Uncensored: We take a look at two Young-Adult/Children’s novels which have been challenged, censored, or banned.  I typically do not feature young adult or children’s fiction on my blog, but these were favorites of mine from childhood, so they deserve their spotlight moment too. 

1. A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein

I cannot tell you how many times I ran to Shel Silverstein’s poetry collection, A Light in the Attic as a child – just for a bit of fun.  The collection was an escape from a bad day, or cheered me when I was bored. The funny little poems, which relate so well to the way children actually think, could entertain repeatedly and endlessly.  I never had my own copy as a kid, so whenever I was at the library with friends or my parents, I would seek these out.  I am happy to say, though, that I did finally get my own copy a few years ago.  I was also a huge fan of Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends and Prelutsky’s New Kid on the Block

So, how does a delightful little book of poetry, a collection meant to engage and entertain kids, and to inspire them not just to read but to read  poetry – to expose them early to things like rhyme scheme, meter, rhythm, alliteration, assonance, personification, metaphor and so much more – how does such a work get banned?  Well, the major charges were and have been filed under the broad term of “inappropriate content.”  More specifically, the book has been challenged for promoting disrespect to adults, for using horror as entertainment, and for, supposedly, encouraging violence (the old video game stigma).  I think it’s so much easier for parents and adults to try and “shield” children as a way of protecting them, but this is a repeat offense that generation after generation of adults is responsible for, and it does not work.  Instead of being lazy and denying kids exposure to these “bad things”, why not take the time, as a parent or educator, to treat sometimes sensitive subjects or topics with the time and respect they deserve; help educate children on how to interpret and respond to silliness and violence, peer pressure and bad tempers, rather than leaving them on their own to try and deal with it as the real-life problems (far less entertaining then their fanciful, fictional versions) present themselves. Do not scare – prepare!

2. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Ah, of course, A Wrinkle in Time had to make it onto my blog, somehow, someway!  It was the first sci-fi/fantasy book that I can remember reading, and it did things to my little brain that I just cannot put into words (though, I bet L’Engle could!).  I re-read the book recently – a year or two ago- and find, now, that there are far better fantasy novels out there but this one still holds a special place with me, being “my first.”  The story is interesting: genius children and their simpleton, but handsome, friend lose their father to some dark deviousness and set off to find him, with the help of three hilariously entertaining, bickering witches. One of the more interesting aspects of this novel, for me, was that the “bad guy” was just badness-in-essence.  In most novels, fantasy or otherwise, the antagonist is a clearly defined man or monster, who/which needs to be defeated.  But in this book, L’Engle has the cleverness (seemingly echoed/honored by Rowling in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) to suggest that the most evil and scary opponent is just evil in its purest form.

How, though, does a Newbery Award winning novel (1963) come to be banned and challenged on so many occasions (because there have been many and, in fact, the book continues to be challenged regularly)?  Well, the most frequent charges are those based on the presence of magic and witchcraft.  Obviously, magic and witchcraft must automatically equate to devil-worship, so these charges are quite understandable (cough).  One of the more charming challenges, though, reportedly comes from a case brought to the Alabama State Board of Education, in which the challenger believes the book should be banned because, in the list of “those who defend the Earth against evil,” is Jesus Christ.  What’s wrong with this, you ask?  Particularly if “devil-worship” seems to be a moot point when Jesus Christ is called on as hero?  Well, the problem is, Jesus Christ was listed along with other mortal men – philosophers, artists, scientists, etc.  Apparently, it is not important to encourage your children to grow up to be great thinkers and moral leaders but, instead, to just … you know, ignore those book-thingies and let the weight of the world fall on someone else’s shoulders. (No offense to the Christian population, here, I know the majority are not so simple-minded.  If you think this way, though, well, fair warning that your kids may just grow up to be a bit… stupid).

Thanks for stopping by for another Saturday, Uncensored!  Have you read these books – thoughts on their being so often challenged?  Comments otherwise?  And – Don’t Forget!  The “100+ Followers Super Giveaway” ends Tomorrow at 11:59pm CST – which means you’ve got one day left to enter to win 1 of 4 pretty groovy prize packs!

banned books, Saturday Uncensored

Saturday, Uncensored! (#4)

“I am mortified to be told that, in the United States of America, the sale of a book can become a subject of inquiry, and of criminal inquiry too.” – Thomas Jefferson


Hello!  And Welcome to Week 4 of my Banned Book themed weekly post, Saturday, Uncensored!  This meme is meant to bring continued and renewed attention to the dangers of censorship and banning books.

As always, I thank you all for your continued support and encouragement.  I greatly appreciate your personal stories, too!  I received comments and e-mails last week from people with first-hand experience of “encounters with the dark side” i.e. literary prejudice.  Hearing from you all keeps me motivated to continue spreading the word.  If you are interested in the theme and/or getting involved, I would highly encourage you to visit deletecensorship.org.  This fantastic website has great material on the cause, and I personally have purchased some of the anti-censorship related items, like book totes and a mouse pad.  Of course, I’m a bit of a nerd like that.  They are also partnered with one of the best resale bookstores, Half Price Books (who are also eco-conscious, another major plus!).

Now, on to the good stuff! This week, in Saturdays, Uncensored: We take a look at two classic African-American Banned Books, from two inspiring writers.

1. The Color Purple by Alice Walker

The Color Purple, written in 1982 but taking place in 1930s Georgia (for the most part) has been challenged on numerous occasions, and holds a spot on the ALA’s Top 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of the 1990s. The book is challenged most often under the charge of “explicit content,” which is largely due to violent episodes which take place throughout the novel (often male-on-female abuse).  What I loved most about the novel was its style.  I am a sucker, I admit, for a good epistolary novel.  The letters Celie writes to God are so heartbreakingly simple and honest it is impossible not to connect with her on a human level (even though her dialect, slang, and personal story are so far removed from anything I have experienced).  My favorite part, of course, is when Celie, after being slapped by the Mayor for her impudence, smacks him right back!  How anyone could challenge such a historically significant and culturally powerful novel is beyond me but, to be fair, there are moments in this novel which, having been written so well, did make me rather uncomfortable and disgusted.

“Celie is a poor black woman whose letters tell the story of 20 years of her life, beginning at age 14 when she is being abused and raped by her father and attempting to protect her sister from the same fate, and continuing over the course of her marriage to “Mister,” a brutal man who terrorizes her. Celie eventually learns that her abusive husband has been keeping her sister’s letters from her and the rage she feels, combined with an example of love and independence provided by her close friend Shug, pushes her finally toward an awakening of her creative and loving self.” -Amazon.com Product Description

2. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston’s best known work, Their Eyes Were Watching God is, ironically, listed as one of the most often challenged novels and listed on the TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923-2005.  Janie Crawford, the protagonist, begins the novel by starting to tell her life story to an old friend, recently met again – the majority of the book, then, is a flashback of Janie’s life, from childhood and up to the time Janie and her friend Pheoby meet again.  Like the epistolary form found in The Color Purple, this novel too progresses through story-telling, a common method in early and post-slavery African-American fiction.  Hurston’s prose is also similar to Walkers in its stark and unflinching realism; nothing is shied away from or hinted at – every cold reality is placed full-frontal before the reader.  This is truly effective and allows an already beautiful story to take hold of one’s attention and imagination and go wild with it.  So, why attempt to ban such an honest, moving piece?  Much of the criticism arises from Hurston’s audacity to use different dialects for her characters, including slang spelling of terms used by the characters of Caribbean and African decent (similar to Mark Twain’s Huck Finn being censored for its use of “southern slang”).  It was also challenged for “sexual explicitness” because, as we know, those who are in charge of our readings lists are often quite terrified at the thought of anyone having sex.  A personal problem, perhaps?

“Of Hurston’s fiction, Their Eyes Were Watching God is arguably the best-known and perhaps the most controversial. The novel follows the fortunes of Janie Crawford, a woman living in the black town of Eaton, Florida. Hurston sets up her characters and her locale in the first chapter, which, along with the last, acts as a framing device for the story of Janie’s life. Unlike Wright and Ralph Ellison, Hurston does not write explicitly about black people in the context of a white world–a fact that earned her scathing criticism from the social realists–but she doesn’t ignore the impact of black-white relations either.

Hurston’s use of dialect enraged other African American writers such as Wright, who accused her of pandering to white readers by giving them the black stereotypes they expected. Decades later, however, outrage has been replaced by admiration for her depictions of black life, and especially the lives of black women. In Their Eyes Were Watching God Zora Neale Hurston breathes humanity into both her men and women, and allows them to speak in their own voices.” –Alix Wilber, Amazon.com