#SurvivalStories2021 Adult Books Features Joy and Peace in Literature Literary Fiction Reading Life Reading Ruminations Reading Themes Saturday Reads

[Saturday Reads] What Does It Mean To Possess The Secret Of Joy?

... as revealed by Alice Walker.


Myra here.

Every Saturday we hope to share with you our thoughts on reading and books. We thought that it would be good practice to reflect on our reading lives and our thoughts about reading in general. While on occasion, we would feature a few books in keeping with this, there would be a few posts where we will just write about our thoughts on read-alouds, libraries, reading journals, upcoming literary conferences, books that we are excited about, and just book love miscellany in general.

Possessing The Secret Of Joy (Amazon | Book Depository)

Written by Alice Walker Published by The New Press (2008, first published 1992)
ISBN: 1595583645 (ISBN13: 9781595583642) Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.

I read Alice Walker’s The Color Purple (Amazon | Book Depository) back in 2016. While I made sure that I have the entire collection (including The Temple Of My Familiar), it is only now that I plucked the book from my overflowing shelves in keeping with our current reading theme on joymakers and peacebuilders.

I did not know what to expect coming into the story. I only knew that while it is part of The Color Purple Collection, it doesn’t really pick up where the first (or second for that matter) book(s) left off. It has a tangent of its own based on a specific fictional character in the first book: Tashi. It was only after reading Alice Walker’s Preface that I learned that this book was about female genital mutilation. I appreciated Alice Walker’s candour in sharing what compelled her to write Tashi’s story and her limitations as a writer in characterizing something so horrific, while at the same time ensuring that she is not misrepresenting Tashi’s cultural ideations and reality.

This book is spoken in multiple voices – yet it was Tashi’s voice that stayed with me, most of all. I was somewhat judgey towards Tashi’s unfaithful but devoted husband which interrupted my willingness to view Tashi’s truth through his eyes. What was clear to me, though, was Tashi’s feral rage, her intentions to wrest ownership of her body even if it means destroying it, her sense of betrayal over something that she is unable to reconcile within her being, the utter dissonance and constant tension serving to unravel her. This is evident in the quote below:

Just like all Alice Walker’s books, this one will stay with me for a fairly long time. It is not easy inhabiting Tashi’s narrative, and it reminds me that much of what we celebrate as joy in its purest form is grounded in grief. It is not possible to untangle one from the other. Alice Walker’s words in her Preface (see below) awaken a sense of hope in me – the universe does balance itself out in the end.

#SurvivalStories2021 Update: 22 out of target 100

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

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