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In Search of the Color Purple: The Story of Alice Walker's Masterpiece

In Search of the Color Purple: The Story of Alice Walker's Masterpiece

by Salamishah Tillet


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Mixing cultural criticism, literary history, biography, and memoir, an exploration of Alice Walker’s critically acclaimed and controversial novel, The Color Purple

Alice Walker made history in 1983 when she became the first black woman to win the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for The Color Purple. Published in the Reagan era amid a severe backlash to civil rights, the Jazz Age novel tells the story of racial and gender inequality through the life of a 14-year-old girl from Georgia who is haunted by domestic and sexual violence.

Prominent academic and activist Salamishah Tillet combines cultural criticism, history, and memoir to explore Walker’s epistolary novel and shows how it has influenced and been informed by the zeitgeist. The Color Purple received both praise and criticism upon publication, and the conversation it sparked around race and gender still continues today. It has been adapted for an Oscar-nominated film and a hit Broadway musical.

Through archival research and interviews with Walker, Oprah Winfrey, and Quincy Jones (among others), Tillet studies Walker’s life and how themes of violence emerged in her earlier work. Reading The Color Purple at age 15 was a groundbreaking experience for Tillet. It continues to resonate with her—as a sexual violence survivor, as a teacher of the novel, and as an accomplished academic.

Provocative and personal, In Search of The Color Purple is a bold work from an important public intellectual, and captures Alice Walker’s seminal role in rethinking sexuality, intersectional feminism, and racial and gender politics.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781419735301
Publisher: ABRAMS
Publication date: 01/12/2021
Series: Books About Books
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 1,122,747
Product dimensions: 8.20(w) x 5.60(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Salamishah Tillet is a scholar, cultural critic, and activist. A professor at Rutgers University–Newark and previously a professor of English and Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, she is a contributing critic-at-large for the New York Times. With her sister, she cofounded A Long Walk Home, a Chicago-based national nonprofit that uses art to empower young people to end violence against girls and women. She lives in New Jersey.

Table of Contents

Foreword Gloria Steinem xiii

Introduction: Looking for Alice 1

Part I Celie 21

1 The Loveliness of her Spirit 23

2 I Had to Do a Lot of Other Writing to Get To This Point 36

3 In This Struggle Language Is Crucial 52

Part II Shug 67

4 Opening This Secret to the World 69

5 Ready to Waltz on Down to Hollywood 87

6 Let the Film Roll 107

Part In Sophia 125

7 The Single Most Defining Experience I've Ever Had 127

8 I Was Struggling with Forgiveness at that Point in My Life 145

Epilogue: Now Feeling Like Home 165

Afterword Beverly Guy-Sheftall 171

Acknowledgments 179

Notes 185

Index 199


New Jersey

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