Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Color Purple

Set in deep American South between the wars, it is the tale of Celie, a young black girl born into poverty and segregation. Raped repeatedly by the man she calls 'father', she has two children taken away from her, is separated from her beloved sister Nettie, and is trapped into an ugly marriage. But then she meets the glamorous Shug Avery, singer and magic-maker -- a woman who has taken charge of her own destiny. Gradually Celie discovers the power and joy of her own spirit, freeing her from her past and reuniting her with those she loves. - Synopsis from the back cover of the novel.

I wondered why I took this long before picking up a copy of Alice Walker's The Color Purple (winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the American Book Award). I've heard about the book from Oprah some time ago.

The whole book reads like a journal, and letters to and from the two sisters, Celie and Nettie. Only thing, Nettie's letters to Celie never reach her because they are stashed away by Celie's horrible husband. When Celie finds out, thanks to Shug Avery (also the lover of Celie's husband and suprisingly, Celie loves her too), she starts writing to Nettie as well, only to discover that her letters, throughout the years, never reach Nettie and are returned to her. But she keeps getting from Nettie, and they continue writing to each other.

This is a special story. Written in the style of grammatically incorrect English (purposely so to depict the characters), it is both interesting and a disturbing read. The book begins with "Dear God," and goes on to tell the story of a 14-year old girl raped by a person whom she calls father: "I am fourteen years old. I am I have always been a good girl. Maybe you can give me a sign letting me know what is happening to me."

I couldn't help it. I was crying buckets towards the end. Now my eyes are swollen; they're not a pretty sight. The picture of reunion is so beautiful. After reading all the pain and trials they have gone through, I am deeply moved. I will definitely re-read this book. Time to put a star-sticker on the book cover...

Coincidentally, I read in the September 2007 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine that Fantasia Barrino is Celie on the Broadway stage. Do check out the interview with Oprah here. Her life story, though not the same, is somewhat similar to Celie's: she was raped in school at the age 14, got pregnant at the age of 17, but her life didn't stop there. She went on to become the third American Idol; released two albums, Free Yourself and Fantasia; written a book, Life Is Not a Fairy Tale; and took on the Broadway musical role as Celie. I think I will also catch the 1985 movie directed by Steven Spielberg adapted from Alice Walker's book.