Directing All Eyes to Hurston

Saint Mary's College English professor Jeannine King was quoted in a Contra Costa Times story about the television film "Their Eyes were Watching God," based on the novel by Zora Neale Hurston.

King, who teaches African-American literature, describes Hurston as "an independent spirit who was ahead of her time." "She's a true original," said King, who first came across Hurston's writing as a student at UC Berkeley. "When you read her, not only are you experiencing great literature, but history and folklore as well."

Regarding the criticism that the book received when it was published in 1937, King said: "Hurston was extremely controversial and outspoken. She never apologized for who she was. I think a lot of her male peers were threatened by her. In their writings, they were going one way and she was going another."

King also responded to the fact that the author remains relatively obscure:

"Her popularity continues to grow, but she's still not taught as much as she should be in general-lit courses," King says. "It's a shame, too, because I always get such wonderful responses from my students when they read 'Eyes.' Its dealings with survival and self-fulfillment and relationship with community all resonate and are universal today. They're issues that transcend race."

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