Dear Reader, if you recall I came down pretty hard on #9 TTFN a few reviews ago. I thought the way it was written — in faux text messages — made it difficult to read and showed a complete lack of regard for the English language. Fast forward a few books to #17 on the ALA’s Top Banned/Challenged books of 2000-2009 and we find The Color Purple by Alice Walker.
I was really flummoxed on what to write about The Color Purple, because I really liked the novel.
Am I a hypocrite for liking Purple but not liking TTFN? Both:
- are written in epistolary form (TTFN in text messages; The Color Purple as letters from Celie and Nettie)
- revolve around the lives of young women (With TTFN’s self involved teens the story stays tight on Mad Maddie, Angie and Zoegirl; The Color Purple casts a wider net to include other women — like Shug Avery and Sophia — and men)
- re-imagine the English language to present their main character’s voice authentically. (In TTFN we get slang and abbreviations — like TTFN; with The Color Purple, especially in Celie’s letters, we get a poor southern dialect, like “…Us both be hitting Nettie’s schoolbooks pretty hard, cause us know we got to be smart to git away.” )
The difference is that Alice Walker gives her book and engaging story and well drawn characters. Even the characters that start off one dimensional slowly evolve over the course of the book. And in the end I think Walter’s choice to use dialect adds to Celie’s character, it’s more than just a gimmick to appeal to a segment of the book buying demographic.
The book was challenged almost as soon as it hit the bookshelves. Racislm, Sexism, Nudity, Offensive Language, Drugs, Alcohol, Smoking, Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Unsuited for Age Group and Violence.
In 1985 the novel was turned into a major motion picture directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Whoopi Goldberg. Twenty years later a musical adaptation opened on Broadway.
Here’s a clip from the 2005 Tony Award’s showing a scene between Celie and Sophia.