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Review of Alice Walker's Possessing the Secret of Joy

  • Mar 6, 2009
  • by
Rating:
+4
Alice Walker states that the secret of joy is "RESISTANCE", which sums up the book nicely. But there is more to this single word. Resistance to what? Resistance to injustice, in this case specifically the injustice of genital mutilation...but Walker clearly means for this resistance to include other forms of injustice. Such as, you ask? Racism, sexism, bigotry in any form.

Walker's books, including this one, convey the psychological damage of perpetual abuse of a person throughout not only their own life but the life of their ancestors. Therefore, racism and sexism heap psychological damage on their victims for enerations--not to mention the clear sociological problems that germinate from them.

Why does "resistance" bring joy? First, if the injustice is eventually defeated it will bring a new found freedom and autonomy. If nothing else, resistance provides the resister with a moral victory over his or her opponents, which in the end, brings our ill-fated protagonist joy.

The more specific sexual aspect of the book is also embraced by this concept. Resistance to the injustice of genital mutilation, on both the individual and collective level, brings sexual pleasure to the individual and to generations of individuals yet to come. So sexual pleasure also is part of the "secret of joy", only in this case it is a specific instance of what "resistance" can eventually accomplish.

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Wiki

From Publishers Weekly
Pulitzer Prize winner Walker illustrates the truism that violence begets violence in this strong-voiced but often stridentan obvious novel? and polemical novel. The focus of Walker's rage is the practice of female circumcision in African cultures. Her tale concerns Tashi, a character who made fleeting appearances in The Color Purple and The Temple of My Familiar , and who here represents an archetypal figure, not so much a woman as a mouthpiece for feminist distress. Tashi grows up in a small African village but initially escapes the customary clitorodectomy. Eventually she is coerced into having the operation as a means of offering fealty to the sinister politician called Our Leader. When she moves to the U.S. with her husband and assumes a new identity as Evelyn Johnson, her pain and anger, accumulating the suffering of the ages, bubble to the surface in a lingering madness that therapy does not assuage and thatwhy not delete this next phrase (through 'finally') as point is made in previous sentence and 'accumulate' is repeated, and incorporate the point about "the ages" into the previous sentenc finally culminates in murder. Walker tells the story in very brief chapters, each loaded with the sense of the historical importance she wishes to convey, but the fragile narrative cannot support the weight of her overwrought prose. Walker's protest against ok? author's "message" in the last review "what men . . . do to us" ...
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Details

ISBN-10: 0671789457
ISBN-13: 978-0671789459
Author: Alice Walker
Genre: Literature & Fiction
Publisher: Washington Square Press (January 1, 1997)
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