This is why I read non-old-white-guy authors with such voracious interest – because beyond the literary canon filled with endless constructions of the perfectly obeisant or perfectly seductive woman and idle musings about the physical and metaphysical dimensions of meaning there’s a wealth of original and vibrant viewpoints and understandings about life, about people, society, spirituality, interaction, about how people build each other up and tear each other down, about the mechanisms of oppression and crushing the human spirit, and about the mechanisms of reviving it through inner strength and cooperation, and those teach me, move me and enliven my spirit in a way few classical works can anymore.
How arrogant is the oft-repeated claim that prestigious literary awards are only given to POC, women, authors from non-western countries, etc. solely because of political correctness, which means, only out of politeness mixed with pity? One must be extremely narrow-minded and poorly-read to believe such a claim. If you ask me, all awards should go to new literatures: to people from colonies, to people of colour, to oppressed voices and to people exposing the long-ignored injustices and inhumanities in the world, not out of some idea of justice or equilibrium, but because these are stories that have not been told, these are viewpoints that reveal radically new ideas about the world we, humans, have built, and the world we will be building. Because these are stories that break new ethical grounds beyond the narrow and analysed to death dilemma of individual freedoms versus authoritarianism. Because these stories can expand our minds and our capacity for understanding the human condition, which has always been one of the chief roles of literature. Because we’ve listened to the old white guy viewpoint long enough and, frankly, it’s said all it’s had to say by now, which is plenty evident by the supposed crises the novel is pronounced to be going through every 20 years or so. Because untold or unheard stories deserve to be told and considered with respect and seriousness.
The Color Purple is a story of building strength through community, understanding and extending compassion to fellow human beings. But it’s also a story of exploitation and oppression, at times told in such plain terms, I grew red with anger at human beings’ capacity for cruelty and perpetuating intolerable injustice. It tells, in a way which is both simple and powerfully moving, of the ways in which people institutionalize oppression borne out of fear, hatred and egotism; and it also tells the ways in which people can break through this rigid grid by banding together and lifting each other up. Its discourse about God was thoroughly refreshing for me. I found brand new ideas to think over in the book’s take on institutionalized racism and daily micro-aggressions, on misogyny and rape, on the cycle of violence in the family, on sex and sexual politics, on love and God and spirituality.
The book verges on fantastical territory with some of its coincidences and neat wrap-ups but never has this bothered me less than it did here, because it’s such a well-crafted piece of literature.
I’d ardently recommend The Color Purple to any woman and girl. It exposes the mechanisms of misogyny eloquently in simple terms and with minimal tools, which nevertheless produce a resounding effect.