This wasn’t just a book, this was an EXPERIENCE. Like most black people my age, I saw The Color Purple for the first time when I was a child. And have loved it ever since. The characters are iconic and kicked off the careers of some of the most well-decorated actors in Hollywood today. I have no idea why it took me so long to read this book but I wish I had read it sooner. Especially considering my love for historical fiction.
Like the movie, this book starts off as Celie is pregnant with her second child and is about to be married off to Albert (Mister). The book reads like a diary for the most part, in which Celie addresses these writings to God. Later in the story, we get letters from Nettie’s point of view, from her time in Africa. Which to me, was one of the things I wished the film had explored more. I love how we got a deeper look into the lives of Samuel and his wife Corrine, who were the adoptive parents of Celie’s two children. Also, we got to see Celie’s children Olivia and Adam grow up in Africa told through the POV of Nettie.
One thing that really stood out to me in this book, is that we get a more detailed story of Celie’s life with Shug after she left Mister. Most of this was glossed over in the film, including Celie’s sewing business. But not only that, we got to see Mister himself change into a man we did not see in the film. After Celie left, he found God and a better man within himself. Of course I was conflicted about this man who we had all been taught to hate from seeing the film. But I was glad that he and Celie found friendship in each other. While their situation may not have been the politically correct way to go about things in our current social climate, I felt that it was appropriate for the time period they were in.
Another aspect that was glossed over in the film, and went over my head as a child, is Celie’s sexuality. That woman was a lesbian and I no idea until I read this book. I always assumed that the kiss between her and Shug in the film was just girls' play. But these two ended up having a whole relationship! It’s a shame that an entire generation of queer girls didn’t get to experience this on film. Alice Walker did so much within those 300 pages, that even this review feels insufficient in capturing what this story really meant for generations of Black women. Black women who are mothers. Who are religious or don’t believe in God. Who are suffering from loss, and abuse. Women who are unapologetic, queer, and have a lot to say but not always anyone to say it too.
The Color Purple will go down as one of my all-time favs. Thank you Alice Walker.