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?)
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!