Lovingly referred to as simply “Eyes” by Hurston-heads such as myself, the novel is a magic surrealist feminist love story.
Prof. LaMothe shared with me that Hurston feverishly wrote the work on her own time while during the day she worked as a scholar of religious folklore funded by the Guggenheim Foundation. Eyes is inspired by Hurston’s romance with Percy Punter, which fell apart when Punter demanded the Harlem Renaissance legend end her career to marry him.
My mental film of Zora coming home after a long day of fieldwork and starting a second shift as an artist reflects my own struggle-and the struggle of so many of my fellow scholar/artists. Imagine if she’d listened to the colleagues who told her then (as some say now) that art isn’t important – that creativity isn’t “real” work.
Ironically, as Hurston was studying the figure of the Zonbi (zombie) in Haitian folklore, she was resisting becoming one herself. None of us are truly alive if we don’t have our own minds, our own spirits. Art is the most authentic expression that part of ourselves.