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"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
The Color Purple by Alice Walker 
24th-Feb-2006 06:38 pm
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 available
Rating: 9/10 - Simply unforgettable. Affecting, enlightening, entertaining, accessible--this novel has it all.
25th-Feb-2006 12:21 am (UTC) - Thank G*d.
It's really lovely, the fact that you like this one so much, since it's one of my favorites. The fact that you're so strict makes it that much more satisfying when you actually enjoy it.
25th-Feb-2006 02:32 am (UTC) - Re: Thank G*d.
Well, for what it's worth, I only give high ratings to books that are both well-written in a technical sense AND entertaining for me.

In general, though, I really like the contemporary, literary African-American writing. The issues and strains of thought appeal to me greatly. Of all minority group writing in the US, I'd say it's my favorite.
25th-Feb-2006 01:24 am (UTC)
"Walker does not come out directly against the last in this novel, but I believe that she does in later works."

Yes, her novel Possessing the Secret of Joy is virtually entirely about how horrible FGM is. In my opinion, Possessing the Secret of Joy is her best novel.
25th-Feb-2006 02:33 am (UTC)
How are The Third Life of Grange Copeland and Meridian? There a book club omnibus with those two titles in it (along with The Color Purple)--are either of those worth the time?
25th-Feb-2006 03:01 am (UTC)
Definitely not. I find Alice Walker's early novels excruciatingly dull - I think she only really learned to write brilliantly starting with The Color Purple. Her earlier stuff is like the practice scribblings of an amateur still trying to figure out how to write.
25th-Feb-2006 03:02 am (UTC)
Okay, thanks. ^_^ I won't run out an buy that omnibus right away, then. The Color Purple was the first Alice Walker work I'd ever read.
28th-Feb-2006 02:12 pm (UTC)
Review archived.
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