I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I’ve never seen the movie The Color Purple, and, until last week, I had never read the book. I didn’t even know much about it, except that Oprah was in the movie and that it was on Broadway a few years ago.
I didn’t know about the controversies surrounding it (google it), nothing.
As it turns out, I’m glad I waited until I was almost 42 to read it. I know so much more about history now, and I have many more ideas about racism, sexism, and misogyny.
I won’t spoil the book for you, if you haven’t read it. I’ll just say that, yes, I can see why it was controversial, but it’s such an important book to read. As many “controversial” books are.
And may I just say that white people feeling uncomfortable about talking about how people of color have been treated in the U.S. since its very beginning is EXACTLY why we cannot have productive discussions about racism and begin dismantling the systems that are holding it up?
To put it MILDLY.
And then there’s the sexism.
An excerpt from a letter sent to Celie in the book:
What can she become? I asked.
Why, she said, the mother of his children.
But I am not the mother of anybody’s children, I said, and I am something.
You are not much, she said.
Yeah, so read the book. It’ll open your eyes, break your heart, and make you want to make the world a better place.
On a related note, I was in a used bookstore a few months ago (which only happens about once a year these days, sniff sniff) and picked up another Alice Walker book, Living By the Word.
As soon as I finished The Color Purple, I opened up Living by the Word, and read it all in no time flat. And, being the writer/book nerd I am, I devoured the parts where she talked about writing The Color Purple and the reaction to it and all of that. I’m a sucker for writers writing books about writing books.
“Every few days for the next couple of weeks I went down to the village and picked up a paper to see how the banning was coming along. [Ha! I love this.] I learned that a certain Mrs. Green had objected to having her daughter, Donna, read The Color Purple. In her opinion the book was too sexually explicit, presented a stereotyped view of blacks, and degraded black people by its ‘exposure of their folk language.’ Mrs. Green had not actually read the book, according to the papers; she’d ‘flipped’ through it, scanned at least five pages, photocopied these five, and passed them out to the members of the Oakland school board.” (p. 55-56)
Alice Walker says she knows which five pages these were–the first five of the book. “They are the pages that describe brutal sexual violence done to a nearly illiterate black womanchild, who then proceeds to write down what has happened to her in her own language, from her own point of view.” (p. 57)
The world is a brutal place, and I think if we’re going to have any chance of making it better for people who are suffering, we’ll have to give up a little bit (or a lot bit) of our own personal comfort, listen to their stories, and learn how we can love them–our neighbors–as ourselves.
Day 1: Introduction
Day 2: Books by/about refugees.
Day 3: Books about race & faith.
Day 4: Books about race & faith, cont’d.
Day 5: Book about a family with a transgender child.
Day 6: Just Mercy.
Day 7: The New Jim Crow.
Day 8: Rescuing Jesus.
Day 9: The Very Good Gospel.
Day 10: The Fire Next Time.
(All links are Amazon Associate links.)