The Color Purple by Alice Walker (1982)
Inspiration to Read:
This is a book I’ve always heard about and always intended to read. It came as a suggested book to read on my Amazon account and I was pleased to make it my next choice.
Although Purple had been on my reading list for years, I didn’t know much about the book. I’d purchased a copy that included two forwards by Walker: her original with publication, and a new one for 30 years later. I started reading Walker’s forward in which she reflects on how readers have perceived Celie’s relationship with God, and shares her thoughts on the God image central to the book. I felt these spoilers were too rotten, however, and skipped forward to the text, intending to return and read them after I was familiar with the plot.
This is the kind of book I truly enjoy reading. It’s an epistolary novel–comprised mostly in letters–in which Celie, a young black woman, addresses, scorns, and seeks guidance from God. I’ve read a few epistolary novels before, and I enjoy the fluidity in style and the shameless bias of one character’s point of view from the letters. In Purple, Celie receives letters from her sister while they are apart, and hers seamlessly join the novel. Mostly I enjoy that Purple addresses racism, social class, education, religion, sexism, sexual health, and family and spousal abuse from the perspective of an ill-educated poor black woman. Her education does not come from school, but from people who grow to become her chosen family.
This is a difficult book to discuss without terrible spoilers, but my favorite parts included Celie’s development of the “God-image,” a message Walker focuses on in one of the forwards I returned to upon finishing the book. Celie felt disconnected to the God she described as big, white, and with white hair and a white beard. She grows to understand a God who is natural and authentic, peaceful and calm, and all-surrounding in her journey. This reflection of her path is triumphant, and a joyous outcome for a woman whose life was pitied by others, but who grows to live in peace.
(Please note: I was not paid to write about “The Color Purple.” I obtained the book by my own means and am just a fan.)