Banned Books Week: The Color Purple by Alice Walker

October 2, 2012 Banned Books, Classics, Historical Fiction, Women's Studies 21

Howdy, Worms! Today’s selection to celebrate Banned Books Week is The Color Purple by Alice Walker. The list of American high schools that banned this book is impressive. It’s been on parents’ shiz-nit list since it was released in 1982. Why is everyone so up in arms? Well… It’s pretty violent. There are some explicit sex scenes, both hetero and homosexual. It doesn’t paint African American men in the best light. And if you can get through the thick dialect, you’ll realize there’s a lot of swearing too. Oh yeah, there’s some baby thieving. And incest… It’s just a giant ball of scandalous activity.

The Color Purple takes place mostly in rural Georgia and focuses on the lives of black women in the 1930s. Our heroine is a woman named Celie. We start following her story when she’s a 14 year old girl being raped by her stepfather. After she’s twice impregnated, the stepfather mysteriously disposes of the children when they’re infants. Celie assumes they’ve been killed and lives a life of misery once she’s married off to yet another physically and sexually abusive man. Shortly after her marriage, her sister disappears, and with her the only functional relationship Celie has ever had. (This book won a crap ton of awards. I mean, it’s a phenomenal work, but do HAPPY things ever win awards? Is that even possible?)

The color purple is totally a metaphor. It’s not like they talk about purple stuff all the time. So, if you’re just like a purple enthusiast? This might disappoint you.

This book’s plot is pretty incestuous, you know, even without the actual incest part. There’s a fairly static group of characters, but they swap partners throughout the story quite a bit. Celie’s happiest moments come when she’s in a relationship with another woman (though that’s hardly surprising given her experiences with men in conjugal situations.) I’ve got to admit, the love triangles make this book a wee bit soap opera-esque. But, you know, since nobody is wearing designer clothes and fighting for control of the family fortune, it feels very real. This book is written from Celie’s point of view, nearly entirely in the format of her letters to God. I’ve got to give Walker credit for making these letters very realistic given Celie’s limited education… But it makes for a bit of a challenge to a reader who is used to her books typically following fairly regular rules of spelling and grammar (cough cough.) Don’t be discouraged though, Bookworms, it’s not NEARLY as bad as trying to read Chaucer in Middle English, I promise.

In spite of this book being tragic at nearly every turn, a number of the characters kind of grow out of their asshole-dom. They’re like real people. They live. They’re flawed. They go through crazy crap. They grow. And you know something? Celie even gets a happy ending. I’m not going to spoil it all for you, but most of you have probably seen the movie (hail to the Oprah.) I haven’t seen the movie, because I don’t watch a lot of movies. Maybe you’re like me. Regardless, this is a really good book. If you’re into any of Toni Morrison’s stuff, you’d love this. Give it a read! Enjoy! Bask in the shiver of exhilaration that comes with reading something that’s banned!

21 Responses to “Banned Books Week: The Color Purple by Alice Walker”

    • Words for Worms

      I’m having a blast! I had a hard time picking my banned book selection, there were so many good ones. SUCH as good book. Even though it made me cry. And made me want to order pants from Celie…

      • didibooksenglish

        Yeah I’m not in the mood for crying at the moment. Just finished The Secret Lives of Dresses and working on the post. I’m going to start Dead Until Dark. Two of my friends have been bugging me to read a bit of this series so here it goes. Starting today. Have you read Dead Until Dark?

        • Words for Worms

          Oh yes, I’ve read all the Sookie Stackhouse novels. They’re fun, especially the ones early in the series. They’re kind of word nachos, but I couldn’t put them down. I think you’ll enjoy them!

          • didibooksenglish

            Well I’ve got the first three. This is as close to Halloween as I can get, unless you count Fifty shades Free that I have to finish.

  1. Elena

    I haven’t tried The Color Purple because I’m over-sensitive to two themes: slavery in the US and the Holocaust. I know I should read this novel (or even watch the movie) but I’m not brave enough, not yet, especially knowing stories like this or even worse were the everyday life of many African-American people.

    • Words for Worms

      You might be relieved to know that this book isn’t about slavery actually… It’s a post slavery novel set in the 1930s. Of course, the mind boggling poverty is still there… And there’s plenty of cruelty that goes on. But the major focus is on how the African American community operates, less so on their relationship to whites (although that is a secondary and important theme.) I totally get it though. Everyone has something that just makes their skin crawl to read.

  2. ThatAshGirl

    I loved this book although it was very difficult to get through emotionally at times. The movie version was ok but I’m one of those book snobs that never thinks the movie does it justice.

    • Words for Worms

      Agreed. My old blog tagline was “The Book is ALWAYS Better Than The Movie.” This is how I get around having not seen a lot of movies. I pull the “I’m well read so I needn’t waste my time with such plebeian pursuits” card. It’s really just that if I’m going to spend money on a movie, it’s not going to be something smart and artsy. It’s probably going to have Reese Witherspoon or Emma Stone in it, along with delicious man candy.

      • Ashley

        That’s a great title. I used to work in a Bookstore and people would always ask me about the movie version. I’m such a snob, I won’t even buy the copy that has the movie cover on it. My imagination is always better than anything Hollywood can come up with. Usually my issue is with the casting. Have you ever read the Diana Gabaldon Outlander series? They’re turning it into a miniseries. I’m fearful. Very fearful.

        • Words for Worms

          I LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE the Outlander Series! And I’m terrified of a miniseries! Who is doing it? Cinemax did a good job with the Pillars of the Earth… But. I’m concerned.

  3. Lyssapants

    Ok, you pulled off a joke about The Color Purple.
    I think you’re my hero.

    In other news, I read books like this all the time. I have this one on my shelf. I’ve actually never read it. I try to space them out sos I don’t get all down in the mouth. I have seen the movie, though. Whoopie was pretty amazing.

    • Words for Worms

      I take my Hero status very seriously. I’m looking into having a cape made. I love this kind of book too, but yeah you’ve got to space them. I have such a hard time imagining Whoopie in a dramatic role… I really need to see this.

      • Lyssapants

        I do think you need to see it.
        It’s so much easier to just hear that dialect without having to stumble through it on the page…

  4. Tilly Bud - The Laughing Housewife

    Another book I love. I didn’t know it was banned in the States. I was living in South Africa when it came out and they banned everything there, but not TCP. Interesting. The authorities probably liked to see the depiction of ‘bad’ behaviour amongst non-whites.

    It’s a fabulous book, if grim.

    • Words for Worms

      Yeah, as far as “Banned” goes, they’re talking mostly about schools I think… And the occasional library maybe. The US has plenty of faults, but to my knowledge, the federal banning of books isn’t among them.

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