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Color Purple by Alice Walker

Color Purple (original 1982; edition 2003)

by Alice Walker

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Title:Color Purple
Authors:Alice Walker
Info:Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (2003), Edition: Later Printing, Paperback
Collections:Your library

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The Color Purple by Alice Walker (1982)

1980s (18)

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“I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.” – Shug Avery

In this book of letters written to God by Celie (main protagonist), Nettie (Celie’s younger sister) to Celie, and finally, Celie to Nettie, themes of strength amidst adversity, resilience, love, growth, forgiveness and topics of racism, rape, abuse of women, colonialism of Africa, family flood the pages filling our minds and hearts. The book doesn’t sugarcoat, and I thought ‘holy sh*t’ reading page 1. Cruelty and ambivalence permeate the first pages as Celie writes to god about her rape (at age 14) and her two children taken from her, the forced marriage to Mr. ___, and the abuse from Mr. ___ and his kids. Damn.

Celie, the kind, gentle soul, eventually wins over all those around her, including the mistress of Mr. ___, Shug Avery, who in turn becomes the love of her life. (Yes, that’s right, throw in some lesbianism too.) Celie finally loses her cool when she learns Mr. ___ has been hiding the letters from Nettie. Shug, the strong willed and life-wise singer, gives Celie the love she needed and the strength to make something of herself, and Celie does!

Nettie, forced to be separate from Celie because of Mr. ___, finds herself in the home of the adoptive parents of Celie children and ends up following them to Africa, to a village called Olinka and worked as a missionary.

Despite much mention of god and missionaries, I didn’t find the book to be preachy. In fact, this book has a self-deprecating quality that I appreciated. Not that I’m familiar with black or African American literature, I was *surprised* to read of Nettie raising/asking about the role of the fellow Africans who participated in the slave trade, meaning the in-power Africans handed over their fellow brothers knowing they will become slaves in the hands of these foreigners for financial gains. Nettie also was disappointed when the Olinka refused to acknowledge such part of history. Whoa, mind blown on my part. Also, the book stated the missionaries were never asked to come; they are convenient when wanted, but in the end, never truly part of the Olinka world.

Overall, a well told tale that touched my heart strings just right. Recommend!

Some Quotes:

On Being a Girl in the South – what a horridly difficult life:
“She say, All my life I had to fight. I had to fight my daddy. I had to fight my brothers. I had to fight my cousins and my uncles. A girl child ain’t safe in a family of men. But I never thought I’d have to fight in my own house. She let out her breath. I loves Harpo, she say. God knows I do. But dead son-in-law you just keep on advising him like you doing. She put her hand on her hip. I used to hunt game with a bow and arrow, she say.” (She = Sofia)

On Sex:
“Listen, she say, right down there in your pussy is a little button that gits real hot when you do you know what with somebody. It git hotter and hotter and then it melt. That the good part. But other parts good too, she say. Lot of sucking go on, here and there, she say. Lot of finger and tongue work.” (She = Shug)

On White Folks – this passage has a Langston Hughes’ “Ways of the White Folks” quality to it:
“So it end up with me and Jack driving her back home in the pick-up, then Jack driving me to town to git a mechanic, and at five o’clock I was driving Miz Millie’s car back to her house.
I spent fifteen minutes with my children.
And she been going on for months bout how ungrateful I is.
White folks is a miracle of affliction, say Sofia.”

On History and Slavery:
From Nettie: “’Hard times’ is a phrase the English love to use, when speaking of Africa. And it is easy to forget that Africa’s “hard times” were made harder by them. Millions and millions of Africans were captured and sold into slavery – you and me, Celie! And whole cities were destroyed by slave catching wars. Today the people of Africa – having murdered or sold into slavery their strongest folks – are riddled by disease and sunk in spiritual and physical confusion.”

On Black Beauty (not the horse :P) – I thought of Lupita Nyong'o when I read this:
From Nettie: “Tall, thin, with long necks and straight backs. …Because I felt like I was seeing black for the first time. And Celie, there is something magical about it. Because the black is so black the eye is simply dazzled, and then there is the shining that seems to come, really, from moonlight, it is so luminous, but their skin glows even in the sun.”

On Africans – another example of the self-deprecating quality I mentioned:
“I think Africans are very much like white people back home, in that they think they are the center of the universe and that everything that is done is done for them. The Olinka definitely hold this view. And so they naturally thought the road being built was for them.” (…and everything that follows eventually destroys the whole village)

On Love – Mr. ___ finally learning to open his heart, for real:
“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.”

On Love – Celie regarding Shug – I stared at this for a long time; if only I can reach this level of zen on love:
“If she come, I be happy. If she don’t, I be content.” ( )
1 vote varwenea | Aug 24, 2014 |
This book was so incredibly moving, that I was actually crying through the last few chapters. It is a very sad, very heartbreaking book, but it is also very hopeful.

I really liked the discussions Celie had with her husband about God and the purpose of life towards the end of the book, especially this exchange:

"Anyhow, he say, you know how it is. You ast yourself one question, it lead to fifteen. I start to wonder why us need love. Why us suffer. Why us black. Why us men and women. Where do children really come from. It didn't take long to realize I didn't hardly know nothing. And that if you ast yourself why you black or a man or a woman or a bush it don't mean nothing if you don't ast why you here, period.

So what you think? I ast.

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."

That to me is just beautiful and dead on.

This book was really, really incredible. I can really see why it won all the awards it did.
( )
  sammii507 | Aug 19, 2014 |
For those who haven't read the book...There may be a spoiler or two...

When it came out in the 1980's, like most others, I watched it and fell in love with the movie.

It wasn't until last year that I picked up this book and attempted to read it. Again, this was a book I wasn't quite sure how I'd feel about it. It took me a bit to get into it because the beginning of the movie was always hard for me to deal with. But once I got past that part, and got further into the story, I really began to love it. And of course, I loved it more than the movie.

Of course, there were details in the book that wasn't in the movie. And it answered some questions I had...Like, what happened to the man Shug Avery married.

And what type of relationship Shug and Cellie actually had. And Cellies True feelings for her.

And I found out that Cellie & Mister actually became friends in the book. {Which they didn't show in the movie}.

I fell so in love with this book I didn't want it to end. I found myself not really even wanting to watch the movie any more because of it...lol...

But I still do love the movie....

Anyone who loved the movie, and maybe even love Alice Walker books but haven't read this one...It's very much worth reading. Or even if you don't like her books and haven't read this one...Its worth reading. I don't like Alice Walkers other books {I've tried reading them and couldn't get into them} but this one will always be on my top 10 favorite books I believe. ( )
  MsBridgetReads | Jul 8, 2014 |
This is the story of two black sisters who grow up in the south in the first half of the 20th century. They escape their abusive father, Celie through being given away in marriage as a very young girl to an abusive husband, and Nettie meets a black family that takes her along on a mission trip to Africa. This book is told through letters. Celie's are to God in journal form and later to Nettie, and Nettie writes to Celie of her experience in Africa.

Walker explores many topics in this book - the challenges of being poor and black in the south, relationships between husband and wife, the justice system for blacks, love, and religion. She also contrasts the African experience with the African-American experience through Nettie's letters.

Overall, I found this a very moving and well-done book. There were sections that I found a bit predictable , but I enjoyed watching Celie and Nettie grow out of their difficult beginnings to be whole, interesting people. ( )
  japaul22 | Jul 8, 2014 |
The Color Purple really made me think. At times I felt so connected to Cecile that I thought I would cry, her story was so heartbreaking. I would definitely recommend this book, especially to those who enjoy a good emotional roller coaster. ( )
  ChickensAreBrave | Jul 6, 2014 |
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Walker accomplishes a rare thing: She makes an epistolary novel work without veering into preciousness. Rather, Celie's full-bodied voice emerges, a moody and honest voice, in an inherently intimate literary form.
Without doubt, Alice Walker's latest novel is her most impressive. No mean accomplishment, since her previous books - which, in addition to several collections of poetry and two collections of short stories, include two novels ("The Third Life of Grange Copeland" and "Medridian") - have elicited almost unanimous praise for Miss Walker as a lavishly gifted writer

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Walker, Aliceprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dam, Irma vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Juva, KerstiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"Show me how to do like you. Show how to do it." -Stevie Wonder
To the Spirit:
Without whose assistance
Neither this book
Nor I
Would have been
First words
You better not never tell nobody but God. It'd kill your mammy.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Tells the story of two African-American sisters: Nettie, a missionary in Africa, and Celie, a child-wife living in the south, in the medium of their letters to each other and in Celie's case, the desperate letters she begins, "Dear God."
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0671727796, Mass Market Paperback)

Winner of the National Book Award as well as the Pulitzer Prize, "The Color Purple" established Alice Walker as a major voice in modern fiction. Her unforgettable portrait of Celie and her friends, family, and lovers is rich with passion, pain, inspiration, and an indomitable love of life. Beautifully imagined and deeply compassionate, "The Color Purple" is a classic of American literature.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:01:45 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

Set in the deep American South, The color purple is the story of Celie, a young black girl born into extreme poverty and segregation. Raped repeatedly by the man she calls 'father', she is then given by him to a violent man. Later she meets Shug Avery, a glamorous singer, who gives her the courage to take charge of her life.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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