I was always curious if Alice Walker’s only book worth mentioning is ‘The Color Purple’ , I mean that book was momentous and constantly dropped in blogs, school libraries and so on. But none of her other books are bandied about so readily. As always the list breaks stereotypes and has placed ‘Possessing the Secret of Joy’ as one of those essential novels that have to be read.
Although Walker says it’s not a sequel Possessing… does have the same themes as …. Purple (and contains a minor character from that novel). Mainly women being oppressed in dominantly male society. However it does take an interesting route as Walker focuses on tribal customs and whether torturous rites should be permitted.
Tashi, who was briefly mentioned in …Purple, lives among the (fictitious) Olinka tribe in Africa and one of their rites is to mutilate female genitalia, so that she will remain pure. Tashi, is hesitant to perform this rite, especially at the age of thirteen but she badly wants to be accepted so she goes ahead with it and it scars her whole life and not only in a medical way. It also affects one subsequent action which shapes her destiny in a nasty way. In between we readers see how women are tortured unnecessarily in order to fulfill tribal wishes.
The book is told through the eyes of Tashi and of other people who surround her so us readers get a complete picture of all the events happening as Tashi is not a 100% reliable narrator due to her madness. If there is a main message to be derived from this book it is that culture is not torture. Something which I agree with.
Possessing the Secret of Joy is an excellent novel and a highly addictive read. Plus it is on par with The Color Purple, if not better due to the fact that it focuses on a more original aspect of female enslavement.