Publication Date: 1982
Publisher: Washington Square Press
I knew that this book was an emotionally impactful story dealing with abuse and sexual assault. But not only does this book deal with those issues (starting on the very first page!) it is also an exploration of race, racism, religion, colonization, sexuality, and feminism. This book is told in diary and letter format and is told from mostly Celie’s perspective. We follow her from the age of 14 through her declining years. Celie is a character that you cannot help but cry for, hurt for, root for, empathize with and ultimately be inspired by. She is someone who I will carry with me forever and the ideas and thoughts presented by Walker have changed me and how I view the world. I particularly connected with the ideas and thoughts of religion and I never realized how entwined racism is with our modern perceptions of religion.
The book is set in the South during the 1930’s and starts with Celie being raped by her father and having two kids by him. Celie notices her father becoming interested in her sister, Nettie, and tries to protect her. To get her out of the way her father arranges a marriage for Celie with a man, Albert, who does not treat her well. Albert happens to be in love with a woman, Shug, who is a well known singer and has no desire to settle down with him. Celie finds a picture of Shug and is completely captivated by her. The relationship between Shug and Celie and how it changes Celie is what takes up most of the narrative. Albert’s oldest son, Harpo, and his wife, Sophia, are also important characters in the book as well as all the various side characters surrounding everyone.
My only critique of this book is that about half way through, when the letters are introduced, the story started to feel disjointed. The pacing slowed way down and while I still think the story told was powerful and thought provoking the flow wasn’t as smooth. The Color Purple is a harrowing, difficult, and crucial read that sadly is as relevant to today as it was when this book was published in 1982.