Two Things Everybody’s Got to Do

2 min read

What is love?

Music in Prose

Receiving a book you already own

Black History Month

1 novel, Zora Neale Hurston





This winter I received five new copies of books I own, four as gifts. When I’ve read a book, I have a reaction or feeling towards it and that feeling is in a way how I feel about the author. That may or may not be good or right, but for the time she wrote the book, she put herself into it. For most authors that is all I know of them.

What do you do when you receive a book you own? I returned one. Another I am keeping because I love it and may pass it on to a friend, or put it in my Little Free Library in the front yard. When I pulled Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God out of the box, I felt a warmth and fondness. I found my copy on the shelf and read the marginalia–my scribbled notes–on the flyleaf.

  • 2/08 Janie’s story told to Phoeby
  • The 3 men shaped women’s lives, their choices, beliefs, character
  • What is love? p.191


Copyright 1937, my shelf copy of the Harperperennial Modern Classics edition 2006


What is love? I turned to page 191. “Then you must tell ’em dat love ain’t something’ lak uh grindston dat’s de same thing everywhere and do de same thing tuh everything it touch. Love is lak de sea. It’s uh movin’ thing, but still and all, it takes its shape from de shore it meets, and it’s different with every shore.”*

My first copy is underlined, highlighted, tabbed and it feels good to hold it in my hands. In February 2008, I lived in Tampa and this was one of the last books my reading group discussed. I didn’t read it thinking about Hurston as a black woman, which of course I knew. The book was out of print for nearly 30 years because of audience reaction to a strong black female protagonist. I am colorblind in a way which is naive and may be a thing of the past. In the nineties when I had met my soldiers, many were black and latino and I hadn’t given it much thought until mid-life; we all wear green and bleed red in the Army.

Back to the novel and the passage about love which continues until the last page. In the margin, I’ve penciled in two words.


Two things everybody’s got to do. “Yo’ papa and yo’ mama and nobody else can’t tell yuh and show yuh. Two things everybody’s got tuh do fuh theyselves. They got tuh go tuh God, and they got tuh find out about livin’ fuh theyselves.” (p. 192)



*What is love? The music in the prose: Hurston’s passage describes how love is like the sea, taking its shape from every shore. It’s exquisite because of the language, the simile, and its truth. We love each other differently. Good to contemplate with Valentine’s Day next week.

Feb 11, 2023


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About the Author

Mylinh Shattan is a writer who has lived on three continents, served in the Army, worked in corporate America, and taught in college. She loves adventures, in the world and in the mind. Literature is relevant and learning is a lifelong pursuit, so you might as well have a bit of fun along the way.

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