“Children, I said to her. For the first little while, they not exactly human, you don't find?”
Nalo Hopkinson

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Color Purple By Alice Walker

January Prompt for November's Autumn's Classic Challenge.

Alice Walker is one of my favorite writers, but I had never read The Color Purple although I had seen the movie and the musical. 

Alice Walker won the Pulitzer for The Color Purple in 1983.  Alice Walker is a short, small boned African American woman who was born in Eatonton, Georgia in 1944. Her skin is the color of rich brown pork gravy.  In addition to novels, Alice Walker has published books of short stories, poetry, essay and novels. After college Walker worked as a social worker in New York City.  Click here and here to view her complete bibliography. This is Alice Walker's official biography.  I could not get a copy of her handwriting but a photo of it is on the Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia Website for Alice Walker.  Emory has housed her archives since 2009.

The novel begins with fourteen year old Celie being raped and impregnated twice by her father.  Her father gives her children away and forces Celie to live with an abusive farmer who wanted to marry Celie's sister/best friend.  The farmer has several children.  Celie is so alone, ashamed and the only person she can talk to is God.  She writes to God on a regular basis.  The whole book is in epistolary form.

The letter form of the novel allow the dialogue and perspective to be in Celie's voice and from Celie's point of view.  It makes the story seem authentic, as if we were really reading the letters of a black woman who lived in the south during the early twentieth century.

My favorite quote is from page 283 of the Harcourt 1992 hardcover edition.  Celie is writing to her sister Nettie about something Albert says to her:

"Anyhow, he say, you know how it is.  You ast yourself one question and it lead to fifteen. I start to wonder why us need love. Why us suffer. Why us black. Why us men and women. Where do children really come from. It didn't take long to realize I didn't hardly know nothing. And that if you ast yourself why you black or a man or a woman or a bush it don't mean nothing if don't ast yourself why you you here, period."

I really expected the book to have more explicit sex and negative views on men.  When the book came out there was a lot of press from critics about black men being labeled as abusive.  Most of the black men in the book were in a process of growth just as the women were.  There was some sex, but not very much.  Shucks. This is a book that was banned!  Reading this book made it very clear that I have to read and think for myself in order to have an authentic opinion or criticism about a book or anything.

The book is about love, suffering, perseverance, transformation, hope and creativity. The characters were always trying to find a way to fit their naturally complicated selves into a world with set categories. It also has much more about Africa in it than the movie.  Overall, I think the movie was very good compared to the book, but the book is always better.


  1. I just listened to the book read by Walker a few months ago. I actually have not ever seen the movie. The male characters were very interesting because you could hate them at the beginning, and then go through sort of an uncomfortable process of forgiving them by the end.

  2. Great review--makes me want to read it! I've never even seen the movie. It's interesting the things that are banned...I'm kinda surprised Gone with the Wind has made it through the same censors that censored Huck Finn.

    Thanks for the novel synopsis--I"ll have to check it out!

  3. I re-read this last year, kind of whimsically, thinking that I was wanting to read books of letters and that I'd just peek inside this one, but I ended up gobbling the entire thing in one sitting. I thought it was just amazing. And I don't understand the criticism of the male characters roles in the novel, either; some of them were damaged, as were some of the female characters, but they were, as you say, just as capable of change and growth as well (meaning some more than others, as with the females). Next time I won't re-read this one by chance; I'll be making a point of it!

  4. Thank you for your post, Judaye! :)
    I've heard of the book but didn't know anything about it or the author.

  5. Hi Everybody. I'm shy about talking to people but trying to do better with it in 2012.

    Katherine, I am so glad you learned about the book. A few years ago I was taking a college course and the professor asked about novels written in epistles and when I mentioned The Color Purple he was surprised because he didn't know about it.

    Shelly, I'm going to try and find the book in audio at the library. I have never seen it in that form.

  6. I've heard of the author and the book from its adaptation to film starring Whoopi and Oprah. Never seen the film or read the book though.

    I didn't realise it was written in letter form. Sounds like an interesting read


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