Wow. Two novels that have been adapted into BOTH feature films and musicals in one week. Go me.
A lot of students in my high school read The Color Purple
in their English class...but not us. Junior year was American lit, but my nakama
and I were reading international lit and lit in translation instead. *sighs* Could this be why I'm biased in favorite of contemporary American literature?Walker, Alice. The Color Purple. 1982. New York: Pocket, 1985.Summary
: Having already given her own father (who it turns out is not actually her birth father) two children, Celie can have no more and is given away in marriage to a man with four children from a previous marriage. It's a thankless life, until she she meets Mr. _____'s (Albert's) lover, the singer Shug Avery. Celie falls in love with Shug, and Shug teaches her how to live for herself. Meanwhile, her sister Nettie is a missionary in Africa along with the couple who adopted Celie's children. In the end, everyone is reunited in happiness. Comments
: "You better not tell nobody but God."
It's one of the most searing first lines ever in American literature, and it speaks volumes for the horror of child abuse, the plight of black women, the plight of all oppressed people. Written entirely in the form of letters, first to God and then to Nettie (and Nettie to Celie), Walker makes magnificent use of dialect (though I don't know if it's strictly historically accurate to have rural Southern blacks speaking in ebonics, which originated as an urban dialect post-Civil War) to make even such personal, written confessions even more believable. Though there were a few moments where I found the novel to be too overbearing and preachy, especially when it came to Walker's pan-spiritualist view of the world, most of the characters' pains and triumphs were almost unbearably immediate. Walker grinds home some important black feminist (Walker uses the term "womanist") issues: the misogyny of black men, the unwillingness for different minority groups and oppressed peoples to cooperate with one another, the especial need for solidarity amongst women in the face of oppression, and female circumcision in Africa. Walker does not come out directly against the last in this novel, but I believe that she does in later works. The love between Celie and Shug is framed as a feminist liberation from men, and while this sort of lesbian philosophical positioning is generally derided these days in the mainstream, the novel shows how such can be both instructive and infectious, eventually blooming outward to encompass the men of the story in happiness as well.Notes
: mass market paperback, 14th printing, out-of-print; trade paperback edition availableRating
- Simply unforgettable. Affecting, enlightening, entertaining, accessible--this novel has it all.