zadie on zora


I always thought of myself as a colour-blind reader, until I read this novel and found that ultimate cliché of black life that is inscribed in the word “soulful” taking on new weight and sense for me. But what does soulful even mean? The dictionary has it this way: “expressing or appearing to express deep and often sorrowful feeling’. The culturally black meaning adds several more shades of colour. First shade: soulfulness is sorrowful feeling transformed into something beautiful, creative and self-renewing, and – as it reaches a pitch – ecstatic. It is an alchemy of pain. In Their Eyes Were Watching God, when the townsfolk sing for the death of the mule, this is an example of soulfulness. Another shade: to be soulful is to follow and fall in line with a feeling, to go where it takes you and not to go against its grain. At its most common and banal: catching a beat, following a rhythm.

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