The Color Purple At 30

It boggles my mind to think that The Color Purple was published thirty years ago. I was about twelve years old when Celie, Shug, Sophia, and Mister entered the American conversation.

I have heard many black women writers confess that they were adults before they knew that black women could even be writers at all.  Right now, I am thinking about how fortunate I am to have never doubted that it as possible for a black woman to be a writer.  Like everyone, I had to go through a lot until I realized that I, myself, could be a writer, that I had something to say.  But thanks to Alice Walker, I never thought that I was excluded because of who I am.

Watching Alive Walker, I knew that the life of the writer would not be easy.  Yes, she was the first black woman to win the Pulitzer Prize in fiction and the only one– to this day– to have won both the Pulitzer and the National Book Award.  Still, she faced immense criticism for The Color Purple.  I have never heard any writer spoken about with the venom with which some African American critics attacked Alice Walker.  At the same time, I have never seen anyone stare down the hate with such love, generosity, and bravery.

Alice Walker is a trailblazer.  She opened doors for writers who came after, but I want to give her credit for what she did for all of us as readers.  The Color Purple is a gift.  Those characters touched all of us deeply.  They are bright purple patches in our American quilt.

About TayariJones

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