Saturday, December 26, 2015

Perfectly though-provoking

What a delightful book. I'm not sure why I had the idea that I wouldn't like The Color Purple but for some reason I was convinced that it would be sappy and trite. Maybe it's all the talk surrounding the movie, maybe it's that I saw the movie during a summer school class my freshman year in high school and it wasn't well discussed in the class. Maybe it's that there's a tremendous amount of negativity surrounding black women authors and I'd internalized that. But I'm very, very happy that I got over whatever preconceived notions I had about this book and finally sat down to read it.

It's wonderful. The Color Purple is powerful and sweet and sad and angry and I loved every page. Celie's quiet disappointments and eventual vocal recovery from the abuses she's survived are magical and painful to read. There was nothing about this book that I didn't adore and so much that I wished I'd read and appreciated years ago.

I don't know why I never read this book in college. I was in at least three American Literature classes, I was in a class called "The Novel in the Modern World," but I didn't take a class on black or women authors and I suspect that's why I didn't come across it for class. Which is a damn shame because The Color Purple is most assuredly an important piece of American lit, a powerful novel in the modern world, and should be read by everyone who studies literature - not just people with an emphasis on gender or ethnic studies.

I'm so angry that I don't read more books like this. I've been working on it, attempting to add more works by women, LGBTQ folks, and PoC to my library but it's so irksome that this isn't automatic. My lit classes were mostly focused on works by dead white men (though all of those AmLit classes did feature books by black men and the Novel in the Modern World class included a novel by Jamaica Kincaid); the endcaps in most bookstores are dominated by white male authors, women's lit, queer lit, and "ethnic" lit are all in separate, hidden-away sections. I am well aware that it is my duty as a reader to seek out works by non-white, non-het, non-male authors if I want to be a GOOD reader, but I'm tremendously frustrated that books by authors like Alice Walker and Ursula K. Le Guin and Octavia Butler aren't handed out in classrooms, that the stories of women of color get passed over and ignored in academia.

So I guess that's my project for reading this year - at least one book by an author who isn't a straight white male for each book I read that DOES fall into that category. It's time to improve my library because there's so much wonderful stuff out there that I've passed over for much too long.

     - Alli

Walker, Alice. The Color Purple. Harcourt. New York: New York. 2003. (1982).

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