Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Color Purple

Wow. Wow wow wow. Have you read The Color Purple? If not, go get on it!!! I've had this on my shelf for YEARS. Like I bought in high school kind of years ago. My junior year English teacher recommended Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston to me, and the introduction in my edition talked about how Alice Walker basically rediscovered Hurston - both her works and her gravesite, which had been unmarked. One I read and fell in love with Their Eyes Were Watching God, I wanted to thank Walker by reading her work. But for some reason it set on my shelf for a while, then I read Morrison and don't love her the way most people do and I was afraid I'd feel the same way about Walker and so I've put it off.

Since I'm trying to read all of the unread books I own and it's Black History Month, I made a stack of books by African-American authors from my shelves and decided to start with The Color Purple. And I'm so glad I FINALLY read this!

Walker creates an amazing story of Celie, drawing you right into the action. It starts off like a train wreck you just can't look away from as she tells her horrible story in a matter of fact manner. Something about her just sucks you and I couldn't stop reading. Dialect doesn't always work, but much like it works in Their Eyes Were Watching God, it clearly works here. The letters show the clear differences between Celie and Nettie, two sisters writing each other. They each have a distinct voice that shines through.

The Color Purple is more than a novel about race - it's about gender, will and humanity. What makes a person strong? What is the best way to show strength - through fighting or turning the other cheek? Why are some people so horrible? How can humans treat each other so poorly?

I adored Sofia. She's a spitfire! She's such a contrast to Celie - ain't nobody gonna git her down! She was just so vivid and alive and I identified with her more in the beginning because fighting has always been my first instinct, even if it causes more trouble. It was interesting to watch both Sofia and Celie change and grow through the novel.

One of the things that surprised me was Nettie becoming a missionary in Africa, and I really enjoyed reading those sections. Seeing her travel to London and have her eyes opened to how blacks can be treated in a white a society (in a good way) and then learning more about African history - the good and the bad. She learns about blacks in biblical times, in Egyptian times, the things they created. And she also learns how Africans participated in the slave trade, selling their fellow Africans. That's one of the things I love about travel - it makes you see things differently, even if it's not always comfortable. I was also surprised that she talks about female genital mutilation. Considering how long ago this book came out and that there's still little attention paid to that subject, that surprised me. I almost wish I was back in school so I could write a paper about all of the feminist stuff in this book! It would be such a great book to teach if I were a teacher (and didn't have to worry about censorship - I'm sure it's not allowed to be taught in most high schools).

Quotes I liked:
"But one thing I do thank her for, for teaching me to learn for myself, by reading and studying and writing a clear hand. And for keeping alive in me somehow the desire to know." Nettie talking about her teacher.

"I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it." Shug - loved her too!

"I think us here to wonder, myself. To wonder. To ast. And that in wondering bout the big things and asting 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, he say, the more I love." Celie quoting Mr. _____.

If you haven't read this one, give it a try! It might take a little bit to get used to the dialect, but don't let that get to you!


  1. I just recently read Their Eyes Were Watching God and loved it. The Color Purple has been sitting on my shelves for years. Looks like I know what I'll be reading soon!

    Wonderful review--I skipped the spoiler paragraph but loved the quotes. Dialect does often turn me off a book, but it didn't with Their Eyes and it sounds like it won't with this book.

    Thanks for the inspiration.

  2. You should definitely read it soon! I'm not sure what makes the dialect different here and in Their Eyes Were Watching God. Maybe it seems more authentic and helps the story, whereas it can often be poorly done and distracting.

  3. This is such a good one-so powerful! The film is also quite excellent if you get the chance to watch it.

  4. I listened to this novel for the first time last year and thought it was wonderful. Still trying to figure out why it took me so long! The movie is in my Netflix queue.

  5. I read this one in 6th grade. I'm sure I didn't get as much from it as I would now. Its kinda surprising my mother let me read this book with all its adult subject matter but she never really censored what we did-hmmmm....

    1. Your mom's an English professor, right? She probably didn't want to censor any reading! I don't think I would have enjoyed it when I was that young.