Series: The Color Purple,
Published by Harcourt on 1982
Genres: Fiction, Classics, Sagas, Literary
Reading Challenges: 2015 Banned Books Reading Challenge, 2015 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge, 2015 TBR Pile Reading Challenge
Buy on: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks
In this book, Celie is a poor black woman whose letters tell the story of 20 years of her life, beginning at age 14 when she is being abused and raped by her father and attempting to protect her sister from the same fate, and continuing over the course of her marriage to 'Mister', a brutal man who terrorizes her. Celie eventually learns that her abusive husband has been keeping her sister's letters from her and the rage she feels, combined with an example of love and independence provided by her close friend Shug, pushes her finally toward an awakening of her creative and loving self.
I remember trying to read this novel years ago, but being in the 3rd grade I was unprepared to deal with the subject matter. I guess it’s one thing to watch a movie, and another to read the novel. This was really surprising to me, because the film is one of my favorite films of all time. However, something about the book made me want to give it another try, and I’m glad I did. Alice Walker has taken this story of a young black girl living in the South during a difficult time in American History, and has given voice to the struggle of women everywhere. Celie has been used, mistreated, and made to feel worthless her entire life. Her story is told first through letters she writes to God about her struggles, and later on to her sister Nettie.
What I loved most about this book was how it managed to surprise me. I’ve watched the film version countless times since its original theatrical release, and can even quote some of its most memorable scenes at the drop of a hat, and yet I found the book still held a few surprises. There are scenes in the book that never made it into the film, and others that have been changed. It was interesting reading a character saying lines that had been given to another character in the film. I enjoyed this, because my perception of the book is now different from the film thanks to these changes.
There is no real bad here, but I will say this novel is not intended for all audiences. The Color Purple deals with the themes of women’s liberation, family, love, race, and colonialism, to name a few. However, there is also rape, female circumcision, mutilation, and other forms of abuse. As an 8-year-old kid trying to read the novel of my favorite film, I was unprepared for the horrors Cellie and other women in the novel face. The Color Purple was definitely intended for an adult audience.
Sadly, The Color Purple has been banned in many schools through the years since its release. The reasons given are the violence, foul language, explicit sex scenes, and negative portrayal of black men. Some schools have completely banned the novel from the school district, while others only allow senior high school students to read it with parent permission and/or an alternate lesson plan. While the novel has many people up in arms to this day, the novel also has many fans that believe it has been badly mistreated and undervalued. About the banning of the novel, Banned Book Awareness states:
“No one is claiming that it be used as a bedtime story for a 5-year-old, but unless you’ve raised your child in a bubble with the belief that a complex, multi-faceted world doesn’t exist beyond the end of the street, these are subjects that should and need to be dealt with; and by high school a student should have enough intellectual and psychological development to not only deal with it, but to analyze it with logic and reasoning for its artistic and social relevance. That’s all part of learning how to think, act, and live as an adult.”
Do I Recommend?
Personally, I believe this novel should be recommended reading in literature classes. Yes, it deals with difficult subject matter. Yes, the women in the story suffer greatly at the hands of the men in their lives. Yet, the men in the novel are not villianized. They are given the chance at redemption, and only act the way they do because of their upbringing and the time in which they live. Their belief and practices are not unique to the American South, but as seen in Nettie’s letters from Africa, the problems that plague women happen everywhere. What I found to be the most interesting, and sad, is that the problems these women face still continue today, nearly 100 years later.