Maya Angelou’s empowering and moving memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is newly introduced and illustrated in this beautifully crafted Folio edition.
Their Eyes Were Watching God
Illustrated by Diana Ejaita
Introduced by Zadie Smith
One of the defining African-American novels of the 20th century, Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God is beautifully illustrated by Diana Ejaita in this striking Folio Society edition.
‘There is no book more important to me than this one. It speaks to me as no novel, past or present, has ever done.’
- Alice Walker
Janie Mae Crawford’s been gone a long while, so tongues start wagging when she casually strolls back into town one evening. Her third husband is nowhere to be seen, but there’s more to Janie than first appearances imply. When her kissin-friend Phoeby arrives with a rice supper and a shoulder to cry on, Janie finds the strength to recount her journey. Set in rural Florida in the early 1900s, Hurston’s novel was heavily critiqued upon publication and went out of print for 30 years. Rediscovered and championed by Alice Walker, this beautifully written story attracted a rapt new audience when it was reissued in 1978; it went on to become one of the most celebrated African-American novels of the 20th century and is considered a modern classic. For this special collector’s edition, we commissioned illustrator Diana Ejaita to celebrate Janie’s journey of self-discovery with her bold and joyful artwork, which includes a vibrant slipcase design.
Bound in printed and blocked paper
Set in Garamond with Nidex display
Frontispiece and 6 full-colour illustrations
8¾˝ x 5½˝
Nigerian-Italian illustrator and textile designer Diana Ejaita has captured the joy and sorrow of Janie’s search for love and identity in her graphic, contemporary paintings. There is an allegorical element to the artwork, which is fitting given Hurston’s academic explorations of African-American folklore. An acclaimed anthropologist as well as a novelist, Hurston switched between fiction and non-fiction for many years, becoming an inspirational figure in the Harlem Renaissance. Despite her talent and expertise, Hurston was living in poverty and obscurity at the time of her death, and it would be decades before she was appreciated as one of the great American writers. Her work has since influenced many authors, with Toni Morrison, Alice Walker and Bernadine Evaristo, among others, holding her in high esteem, while introducer Zadie Smith perfectly sums up her masterpiece as ‘a beautiful novel about soulfulness’.
The central theme of Hurston’s beautifully written novel is love and its inherent struggles, which initially caused some critics to judge the text harshly, as it didn’t adhere to the racial uplift ideology being championed by her Harlem Renaissance contemporaries. However, the Southern setting, the post-Civil War era and Hurston’s decision to use rich, regional dialogue meant that racial and social injustice are naturally woven into the narrative. Her characters’ lives are shaped by segregation and discrimination; misogyny adding to the women’s burden. So, while Janie’s search for true love is a joy to read, the novel also elevated female black voices in the literary canon. The rediscovery of her work decades later signalled a new and fresh appreciation of her writing.
She knew that God tore down the old world every evening and built a new one by sun-up. It was wonderful to see it take form with the sun and emerge from the gray dust of its making.
Married off to a local landowner at 16, before she could ‘hug and kiss and feel around with first one man and then another’, Janie refuses to trade stability for love. When her head is turned by dapper Jodie Stark she doesn’t look back, but it turns out that he has his own agenda and she must bide her time before finding her soulmate. Her patience pays off when Tea Cake walks into her life years later … has Janie finally found the happiness she craves?
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