BOOKS REMAINING: 37
CURRENT BOOK: The Color Purple by Alice Walker
After reading the introduction by the author, I wasn’t sure I would enjoy this novel. She said its theme was intended to revolve much around God, and I’m just not into that.
I was surprised.
The novel explores the same themes of feminism and racism that I have seen in many others on The List. However, it gave me more of a glimpse than I have seen, into the sexism that occurred within the black community and the various kinds of abuse that black women suffered at the hands of black men. In fact, several of the main female characters have a very low opinion of men, and the main character Celie even engages in a long-term relationship with a woman through which she finds sexual fulfillment that she never experienced with her husband.
The narration is carried out through journal entries and letters between Celie and her sister Nettie, and the language used is authentic to these characters. The events take place in the early half of the 20th century, and Celie stays at home in the American South while Nettie travels to Africa as a missionary. It was intriguing to look through Nettie’s eyes and see how blacks lived differently in the North and in Africa, and how the African village where she lived and worked was negatively impacted by the encroachment of white industrialists.
In Africa, Nettie encounters sexism which is arguably even beyond what was happening in America, as it includes female genital and facial mutilation. One of the first conversations Nettie has with another woman goes like this:
The Olinka [native African tribe] do not believe girls should be educated. When I asked a mother why she thought this, she said: A girl is nothing to herself, only to her husband can she become something.
What can she become? I asked.
Why, she said, the mother of his children.
But I am not the mother of anybody’s children, I said, and I am something.
You are not much, she said. The missionary’s drudge.
When the topic of God does come up between Celie and her female lover, I appreciated what is expressed, even though I’m among the portion of society that’s expected to think of God as a Caucasian man with a long beard in a flowing white garment.
What God do for me? I ast.
She say, Celie! Like she shock. He gave you life, good health, and a good woman that love you to death.
Yeah, I say, and he gave me a lynched daddy, a crazy mama, a lowdown dog of a step pa and a sister I probably won’t ever see again. Anyhow, I say the God I been praying and writing to is a man. And act just like all the other mens I know. Trifling, forgetful and lowdown.
Us worry bout God a lot. But once us feel loved by God, us do the best us can to please him with what us like.
You telling me God love you, and you ain’t never done nothing for him? I mean, not go to church, sing in the choir, feed the preacher and all like that?
But if God love me, Celie, I don’t have to do all that. Unless I want to. There’s a lot of other things I can do that I speck God likes.
Like what? I ast.
Oh, she say, I can lay back and just admire stuff. Be happy. Have a good time.
Well, this sound like blasphemy sure nuff.
She say, Celie, tell the truth, have you ever found God in church? I never did. I just found a bunch of folks hoping for him to show. Any God I ever felt in church I brought in with me. And I think all the other folks did too. They come to church to share God, not find God.
Tell me what your God looks like, Celie.
…He big and old and tall and graybearded and white.
Here’s the thing, say Shug. The thing I believe. God is inside you and inside everybody else. You come into the world with God. But only them that search for it inside find it. And sometimes it just manifest itself even if you not looking, or don’t know what you look for. Trouble do it for most folks, I think. Sorrow, lord. Feeling like shit.
It? I ast.
Yeah, It. God ain’t a he or a she, but a It.
But what do it look like? I ast.
Don’t look like nothing, she say. It ain’t a picture show. It ain’t something you can look at apart from anything else, including yourself. I believe God is everything, say Shug. Everything that is or ever was or ever will be.
In other words, a very different picture of God than the one in the “white folks’ Bible,” and one more in line with what I believe about God.
Especially since the novel was blessedly quick-reading, I’ll be big enough to admit that first impressions aren’t always correct. Even if I could use a break from the sexism and racism. My interlibrary loan on A Room of One’s Own is still pending, so on to the next book on The List, Eat Pray Love. Which is available, if I can pass by the library before they close this evening.