Hey! If you didn't know, I started a feminist literature club at my school, where we read monthly books that we feel depict diverse interpretations and perspectives of women and gender across time and distance. The book for February was The Color Purple, and as I've read it, I thought I'd share my thoughts with you!
Title: The Color Purple
Author: Alice Walker
Blurb: Celie is a poor black woman whose letters tell the story of 20 years of her life, beginning at age 14 when she is being abused and raped by her father and attempting to protect her sister from the same fate, and continuing over the course of her marriage to "Mister," a brutal man who terrorizes her. Celie eventually learns that her abusive husband has been keeping her sister's letters from her and the rage she feels, combined with an example of love and independence provided by her close friend Shug, pushes her finally toward an awakening of her creative and loving self.
Me: One of my all-time favorite classics. Addictive, easy to read, unique, and so beautiful!
The entire book is written in a letter format. Celie, who is the main voice of the novel, writes to God, largely because she feels He is the only one who will listen (her ideas of religion change drastically in the novel though). Celie was raped at a young age and married off shortly after, and taken out of school when she was pregnant. Her letters reflect her state, and the dialect is written with little attention to grammar and spelling, and although that could be distracting in other novels, for this one, it actually made it easier to fall into the plot. Because all the letter are quite short and there is not necessarily a constant continuation of plot, it made the book easy to get back into when I had to put it down.
The characters, oh god, the characters were STUNNING. This is a book about women- and the women that pop up in this novel are all so fully realized yet mysterious. Celie, who is discovering how to become herself after having her identity thrown around by other men in her life, Nettie, her intelligent, educated sister as a missionary in Africa, Shug, Celie's (and everyone's) love interest, who is vibrant and glamorous yet fiercely loyal, Sofia, the fiery and determined daughter-in-law of Celie, Squeak, a quiet beauty who discovers her talent for singing...each woman is so strong within herself but at the same time, all of them come together to form a multi-faceted persona of African American women everywhere.
For dealing with such horrifying, grotesque subject matter, the book shares a largely positive message. The title in itself is a reference to the rare beauty of the world that Celie is trying to discover, the positive moments in a lifetime of being pushed down. It deals with many issues and tries to swallow them completely, but often doesn't necessarily go into depth of all those topics. But perhaps that's purposeful, even the women and the characters cannot swallow these issues that engulf them.
In general, this book (despite being very controversial and banned in many schools) made the subjects of sexual abuse, homosexuality, racism, sexism, and religion approachable in a way that many books I have read before couldn't. It was incredible how Walker didn't necessarily show us all aspects of Celie's life but still created such a coherent, beautiful story.
Overall: One of the best books I've ever read.
“I think us here to wonder, myself. To wonder. To ask. And that in wondering bout the big things and asking bout the big things, you learn about the little ones, almost by accident. But you never know nothing more about the big things than you start out with. The more I wonder, the more I love.”
"God ain't a he or a she, but a It. But what do it look like? I ask. Don't look like nothing, she say. It ain't a picture show. It ain't something you can look at apart from anything else, including yourself. I believe God is everything, say Shug. Everything that is or ever was or ever will be. And when you can feel that, and be happy to feel that, you've found it.”
“Oh, Celie, unbelief is a terrible thing. And so is the hurt we cause others unknowingly.”
"I'm pore, I'm black, I may be ugly and can't cook, a voice say to everything listening. But I'm here.”
Rating: Beat My Scale!