the color purple cynthia erivo joaquina kalukango alice walkers garden

Word that the Texas prison system has banned The Color Purple this week, made me wish to share the thoughts below.  I am off to a silent retreat in hopes of “re-setting” myself. Otherwise I would have found a great picture to go with this!  Well, imagine your family, with all the wild and woolly ones showing up, after years of  absence,  sitting on the front porch, admiring each other’s astonishing lives!  ”Strange” adventures can be so entertaining and how we learn!

The musical is on the road.



Our Wandering Lives:  Thoughts About The Color Purple

Published recently in the Boston Globe
©2017 by Alice Walker

My most free-spirited niece, who was born in Boston, thanked me recently for writing The Color Purple.  She said it gave her a sense of our family, though of course much of that family is imagined rather than literal.  In particular, she said, it made her feel more loving toward her wayward leaning self.  She could witness “aunts” in The Color Purple who made perfect ancestral material for the person she is.  This was lovely to hear.  One of the values of family knowing itself is that loneliness is decreased, mysteries explained; company for one’s journey on this planet thankfully acquired.

Not having grown up in the South as I did, my niece knew almost nothing of the strong connections that existed, in the last century, especially between her grandmother, my mother, and her five sisters and six brothers.  Never experienced as a child the huge gatherings of clan that gave small children a sense of belonging and familial security.

These gatherings were a special blessing to every young child. Though, with so many uncles and aunts and cousins descending on the family at least once a year, it was a challenge to understand just exactly who each person was.  It didn’t really matter, in a way, since it was the collective -so many aunts and uncles and cousins to wonder about and to enjoy! – that made each gathering special.

In a way, The Color Purple asks:  Can a family fall completely apart – whether from alcoholism, child abuse, poverty, racism, violence, sexism, homosexuality (which would have seemed to be a negative in the days the book depicts) – and still reconstitute itself primarily through the efforts of the one member who begins to see the value of each participant?  Can we find the thrown away or broken parts of ourselves, and reclaim and fix them?

The ending of the movie of The Color Purple was disheartening to me, because I realized the editor of the film did not share my faith that family is actually like any other living organism that will forever seek missing parts of itself.  “Mister” who has been so cruel to others because his father was cruel to him, is not allowed to grow, in the movie, to the full extent of his recovery.  He wanders off, at the end, outcast from the family that he has harmed so deeply.

The play restores him to the family as the book intended.  And answers the question we all must ask of our families and communities in these times that are so challenging to the spirit of us all.

At the end of our wandering lives, when each of us has fulfilled the dictates of our own natures as best we could, might we, as families, return to sit together on the same porch?

With all my heart I am hoping the answer is yes.

Alice Walker