I've just finished reading this book as a summer reading assignment for school, and to my surprise, I found myself actually enjoying it. I went into the reading of this book with reluctance. I've read THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD, and while I enjoyed that book at first, I was always frustrated that the main character had to find herself through dependence on men, namely Tea Cake, whom I despised because of his controlling nature and ultimate betrayal. However, despite my prejudices against it, this book managed to grab my attention.
That is, in the last three chapters. I did not think this book was mostly an account of the other books Hurston has written, as some other readers have stated. Hurston only focused one or two chapters toward the middle of the book on other works, but even then it was only to list when she wrote which book, not to go in depth on the process and motivation. However, it seemed to me that it was an account of Hurston's journey through life, including details on her childhood in Eatonville. This is all well and good, except, especially as Hurston gets into the adult years, she tends to gloss over much of the details, omitting names, and mentioning events which obviously impacted her life yet for some personal reason or another, refusing to describe to the reader these events for fear of who knows what.
This was only the first confusing element. I also had a difficulty with Hurston's writing style. She tends to jump from one anecdote in the middle of another with no explanation before returning to her original story, which left me as the reader, feeling befuddled. The sequence of the chapters, out of her childhood, also does not really seem to follow a sequential storyline.
I was also bothered with Hurston's portrayal of herself, especially her childhood self. She seems to portray herself as the only child there ever was with an active imagination. Perhaps I am actually a member of the privileged minority, but I know that I told myself stories and had imaginary friends when I was a child. I was also very devoted to literature, and reading, as I still am, though Hurston's individualities in that area are more understandable, perhaps, considering the circumstances.
Despite all this, I walked away from this book with a respect for Hurston that I hadn't felt before because of the last three or so chapters in the book where Hurston discusses her thoughts and feelings on her race, and the inter-racial strife which hurt the African-American Civil Rights movement. I also enjoyed the appendix in which the reader is allowed a glimpse at Hurston's more controversial writing.
I don't hold a grudge against Hurston's perhaps unorthodox method of writing an autobiography, far from it. In fact, I think this book would have benefited greatly if Hurston had included more of her personal view points on the world as she did in the last few chapters. Hurston was often criticized for writing African-American literature that was not a rousing cry for Civil Rights, in this book, Hurston finally explains WHY. It also would have been helpful if Hurston either would have detailed the events in her life which were so groundbreaking, or simply not mentioned them at all, instead of saying "Then this happened and it changed my life and for that I will be forever grateful, but I'm not going to tell you anything about what it was." The strange presence of such passages was much more disquieting then their absence would have been.
So in conclusion, I'm glad this book included an appendix, and I do feel Hurston deserves some plaudits for writing what was eventually a stimulating autobiography.