The Color Purple by Alice Walker

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Date Read: June 10th 2015

Published: 1985

Publisher: Pocket Books/Washington Square Press

Pages: 295

 

 

The Blurb

Life wasn’t easy for Celie. But she knew how to survive, needing little to get by.
Then her husband’s lover, a flamboyant blues singer, barreled into her world and gave Celie the courage to ask for more – to laugh, to play, and finally – to love.

Review – ★★★★ (4 stars)

The Color Purple is an excellent book and it has won several awards: the Pulitzer Prize (1983), The National Book Award for Fiction (1983), National Book Critics Circle Award Nominee (1982); plus a (Steven Spielberg directed) movie adaptation starring Danny Glover, Whoopi Goldberg, Oprah Winfrey among others! But I think I would have been more blown away by this novel if I read it when I was younger. I’m sure the plot and some incidents from this book would have been quite traumatizing to me had I read this if I were 13 years old. Anyways, The Color Purple is my second Alice Walker novel of the year and I love love love her writing! Check out my review of her excellent short stories collection: You Can’t Keep a Good Woman Down.

The Color Purple is about the survival of Celie in the world, during the 1930’s over about forty years. This novel is in epistolary form where Celie and her sister Nettie write letters to each other. In the beginning of the novel, Celie mostly writes letters to God and these letters seem more like diary entries where Celie expresses her sincere feelings of joy and pain. Celie is a loving, kind, docile soul who wouldn’t even hurt an ant. She is initially perceived to be ugly, dumb and worthy of being abused by her ‘father’. At the age of twenty Celie is married off to Mr. ____ to help raise his three children.

After she moves in with Mr. ____, Celie meets Shug Avery – her husband’s lover, and they eventually form a strong bond. Shug’s sassiness and confidence begins to rub off on Celie and she starts to evolve into a brave, outspoken woman, still full of love in her heart. I believe Celie’s transformation allows her to reap huge blessings for the many years of verbal, physical, mental and emotional abuse she endured during her childhood and marriage.

In my eyes, Celie was a lesbian. The sisterhood and love story between Celie and Shug Avery was very interesting to read – I always enjoy stories that feature same-sex relationships. The same-sex relationship in this story keeps The Color Purple very relevant, even in present day 2015. This book has a lot of characters with a lot of subplots, and I absolutely loved three characters:

Nettie: Celie seems to be everyone’s heroine, but my favorite character is Nettie – Celie’s younger sister. Nettie is an intelligent, respectful, good-spirited woman. The love Nettie and Celie share is the driving force that pervades this novel. I gained a lot of appreciation for Nettie as she wrote Celie letters on the happenings of her missionary adventures in Africa with the ‘Olinka’ tribe (this is a fictional tribe). In the letters she wrote Celie, it is evident that Nettie is more educated than Celie, as she writes in standard English instead of vernacular/broken English as seen in Celie’s letters.

Shug Avery: Shug is a mystery to me. She’s the type of woman who makes men fall in love with her lustful ways of singing and crooning crowds, but would also have relations with a woman. Is Shug bisexual? Shug isn’t the typical woman of her time. I loved Shug’s ability to live her life as she pleased without allowing the public’s negative perception of her lifestyle to taint her confidence and goals.

Sofia: Sofia is Harpo’s wife (Harpo is Mr. ____’s oldest son / Celie’s step-son). I have never read about any character like her before. She is crazy! Sofia is big, aggressive, abusive, brave, loud, rude, strong, wild, carefree! She’s the type of woman that fixes the roof on a house. She’s the type of woman that makes her husband weep! (No, not tears of joy). I enjoyed reading about Sofia’s boisterous ways and I was satisfied with her character development by the end of the novel.

Alice Walker’s ability to develop these characters so thoroughly made me forget that they were fictitious beings! This classic carries a lot of (heavy) themes that I’d love to discuss! But if I say more, I will surely give away some spoilers and that wouldn’t be right. I recommend this to anyone who enjoys Alice Walker’s work, anyone who loves reading about African-Americans (of the South), anyone who appreciates feminism/womanism concepts, anyone who can stomach some pain, and anyone who simply desires to cuddle up with an uplifting book!

Given that The Color Purple was published over 30 years ago and it is such a classic, I observed that it has several lovely book covers!

(Check out the new and improved Book Covers Showcase section of the blog that features collages of colorful book covers from my favorite literature genres – HERE).

★★★★ (4 stars) – Great book. Highly recommend!

This is another oldie but goodie from my Mom’s bookshelf. The Color Purple can be purchased on Amazon.

You Can’t Keep A Good Woman Down by Alice Walker

Alice WalkerDate Read: January 18th 2015

Published: 1981

Publisher: Harvest Books

Pages: 180

 

 

 

 

 

The Blurb

A natural evolution from the earlier, much acclaimed short story collection In Love & Trouble, these fourteen provocative and often humorous stories show women oppressed but not defeated. No longer do they excuse the aggression of others, no longer are they suspended in their unhappy condition. The women here claim every bit of space they make.

These are modern stories: about love, lust, fame and cultural thievery, the perils of pornography, abortion and rape; the delight of new lovers, and the rediscovery of old friends, affirmed even across self-imposed color lines.

Review – ★★★★★ (5 stars)

Lovely, lovely, lovely collection of 14 short stories. If you want to think and learn something new, this is a must-read! You Can’t Keep A Good Woman Down is a classic. Most of the stories are pretty deep though. Alice Walker tackles issues from feminism/womanism to pornography to death to poverty to fame, abortion, the civil rights movement etc. All the women in these stories have some odds going against them, but find different ways of dealing with the prejudices. Even though these stories tug at your emotions, Walker ensures there are positive, humorous bits to all the stories allowing readers to see the light in the situations of each character in the stories.

I love how Walker makes references to Ida B. Wells, Audre Lorde and other prominent black women who have helped shape (black) American lives for the better. I also enjoyed Walker’s writing style in this collection. The sentence structures and style of writing leave room for various interpretations of her stories. When I re-read this, I will surely learn more things that I didn’t grasp from this first reading. Besides her critically acclaimed novel – The Color PurpleYou Can’t Keep A Good Woman Down is another great novel showcasing Alice Walker’s versatility as a writer.

Note: Prior knowledge on the Civil Rights Movement would help you thoroughly appreciate the stories in this book. Also, I think you must be 18 years or older to read this book – some descriptions are QUITE explicit!

My favorite stories were:

“How Did I Get Away With Killing One of the Biggest Lawyers in the State? It Was Easy” – This was a sad and crazy story from beginning to end. Some women are crazy…and dangerous! Loved it.

“Coming Apart” – I think every married couple should read this story- together. It’s sooo deep! It has you thinking about sex in such a different, non-flippant way. I’ll have to read it again to fully understand the concepts discussed in the story, but I learned how pornography has terrible consequences in relationships/marriages.

“The Abortion” – I just felt sick to my stomach reading this story. There weren’t many gory descriptions, but it was just miserable. I think I resented the main character. She was a selfish woman and expected her husband to make her happy, when happiness is really from within.

“A Sudden Trip Home In The Spring” – After the death of her father, Sarah – who is the only black girl in her school, questions whether she is in the right school as she sometimes feels out of place. I loved the calmness of this story. Some bits reminded me of my undergraduate experience at Middlebury College.

Like I said, if you want to think and learn something new, read this!

Oh! Today- February 9th, is Alice Walker’s 71st birthday! Happy Birthday Alice Walker!

★★★★★ (5 stars) – Amazing book, I loved it. Absolutely recommend!

Purchase You Can’t Keep A Good Woman Down on Amazon