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In Search of The Color Purple

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A fascinating account of how Alice Walker’s book has been received and adapted, In Search of The Color Purple is especially powerful when Tillet highlights Walker’s emphasis on the theme of redemption.

Formal review coming soon.
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In 1983 Walker made history when she became the first black woman to win the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for The Color Purple.⁣
In Salamishah Tillet’ s new book, In Search of the Color Purple: The Story of an American Masterpiece, Tillet explores the story behind the novel. Through extensive research through archives and Interviewing Alice Walker, Oprah Winfrey, those involved in the publication of the novel, the film and stage adaptation, we get a guided tour through the process of this masterpiece.⁣
I have read and seen, The Color Purple, at this point in my life, so many times that I have lost count. I have always been curious about the backstory of this book and Salamishah Tillet did an amazing job providing a near step by step on how everything came to be. I loved how Tillet was able to interweave her on personal experience with the book as well as providing the facts. I am aware that Steven Spielberg directed the film & Quincy Jones produced it. What I didn’t know was that Spielberg, limited characters Shug and Celie’s intimacy. The Color Purple, broke ground in terms of Black lesbian representation, and he explained the choice to have the two women kiss just once, and briefly because, “there would have just been too much on that one taboo.” ⁣
Something else I learned was that during production, the film was the subject attacks, from Black male critics and community leaders who thought the novel—which explored the subjects of incest, childhood rape, and domestic violence within the context of a single family in the rural South of the 20s—promoted an image of Black men as violent and sexually aggressive—or how the film was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and won none! Like how? ⁣
Beautiful structured and endless interesting facts, this book was such a treat to read. I love that I have rediscovered one of my all-time favorite books in a whole new way. Available now, thank you, @abramsbooks for this gifted copy.
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An in-depth and important exploration of Alice Walker’s seminal novel The Colour Purple, combining literary criticism, biography, social and cultural history, memoir and personal reflections. Comprehensive and thoughtful, it examines the novels’ importance, influence and continuing relevance. Essential reading to accompany The Colour Purple, offering as it does new and insightful perspectives leading to a deeper understanding of the text. The book is a subjective and personal exploration, for sure, and it may be that not everyone will agree with some of the author's assertions, but I found the mix of subjectivity and objective analysis compelling and it’s certainly a book I will continue to refer to when re-reading The Colour Purple.
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Have you read The Color Purple by Alice Walker? How about seeing the movie or the Broadway musical?


Thank you so much to @abramsbooks for this gifted copy of In Search Of The Color Purple by Salamishah Tillet! I was first introduced to Alice Walker’s novel when I was in middle school by watching the movie starring Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah. It was a story that stuck with me, and I was thrilled to start 2021 by reading the novel and then following it up with this book which is essentially the biography of this amazing story.


Synopsis from the publisher: Alice Walker made history in 1982 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.


This book was a beautiful companion to Alice Walker’s controversial masterpiece. I loved gaining a deeper understanding of all that went into the creation of this story, that is just as powerful today as when it was first published. This book is out now! TW: rape, physical abuse, and sexual assault.
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Thanks to Abrams and Publishers Weekly giveaways for an advance galley of this title, which came out on Jan 12, 2021--

In 1983, Alice Walker became the first Black woman to win the Pulitzer Prize in fiction for "The Color Purple," which also claimed that year's National Book Award. Walker's road to this achievement was a long and fraught one, but the harshest criticisms were yet to come.

Salamishah Tillet's intriguing quick-read "In Search of the Color Purple" blends Walker's biography and the history of her famous novel with memoir content and cultural criticism about the book's impact on Tillet and others. "The Color Purple" was heavily influenced by Walker's own family, with certain ancestors and experiences serving as direct inspirations for the book's characters. Tillet tracks Walker's life, from her activism work with Howard Zinn in college, to her championing of Zora Neale Hurston, to her friendship with Gloria Steinem and employment at Ms. magazine, etc. "In Search of the Color Purple" then follows Walker from the publication of the novel, to the release of the film, to both versions of the musical stage play.

If the book "The Color Purple" was controversial for its critical portrayal of abusive Black men and openness about Black lesbianism, then the film version was viewed by many as an absolute outrage. Some Black men, including NAACP members, boycotted and picketed the film--claiming that its depiction of men played into sexual stereotypes about aggressive Black male sexuality, and that the film encouraged lesbianism as a better relationship option for Black women. Reviews of Walker and her work were often relentless, with critics lambasting her choices about Celie's speech and dismissing her use of the epistolary format. Despite all the political squabbles over the work, "The Color Purple" overall had an enormous influence on Black women and helped to normalize women coming forward with their stories about assault and abuse--like Oprah and Tillet herself.

In today's political climate, the 1980s backlash to Alice Walker's "The Color Purple" seems both completely overblown and totally likely--all at the same time. I'd like to think that a contemporary work addressing domestic abuse and lesbianism in the Black community wouldn't be met with such ire, but I'm not sure. Given how many Black women in the BLM movement have been calling out Black men for their lackluster allyship, it's obvious that the intersection of racism and sexism is still a fraught issue. The story of Walker's novel further proves how vital intersectional politics are--fighting racism, sexism, and classism equally, without ranking an oppression's importance.
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The. Color Purple was a masterpiece of a novel and will always be a timeless story for generations to discover.  Alice Walker wrote a story that was a cultural phenomenon with a movie and stage adaptation, a political and feminist novel that received the highest praise and damming male criticism.  It’s so deeply personal it affects readers in a profound way.  It changed my life.  I had the opportunity at a conference to approach Alice Walker and to tell how my world shifted and how radically different I felt after reading her work, how I learned to own, understand and overturn my racism and work with other white women in anti-racist groups.  of course, Alice replied that I had done that not her.  So Alice, but I knew it was her work that motivated me and many of my white feminist movement contemporaries. I approached this biography of the novel by Salamishah Tilley with some hesitation but it was a loving, generous, interpretative look behind the scenes and the political climate. I am reading this book, written by another woman deeply moved by the original while the Capital riots by white supremists with Confederate flags is happening at the same time.  It’s time to read The Color Purple by Alice Walker again, and get to work, again.
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Thank you so much to the publishers and Netgalley for providing me with an eArc of this book in exchange for my honest review.

This book was really detailed and packed filled with information about the story behind The Color Purple by Alice Walker. There are many interviews found within this arc including one with Walker herself. 

By reading this book you will be able to look into what went on during the production of The Color Purple on stage and on Broadway. It was so interesting to hear all about the behind the scenes stories, knowledge and accounts of racism and feminism that shaped my deeper understanding of what was happening in the novel itself. 

Through the original novel, I was greatly interested in Walker's story and so I knew I had to get my hands on a copy of this book. 

Again thank you so much to Netgalley and the publishers for providing me with a digital copy of this book. I had a wonderful time reading and learning more about the world and the academic thoughts and points that Tillet made and handled about The Color Purple.
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The Color Purple by Alice Walker is my favourite book of all time so when I saw there was a book about how that story came into being I knew I had to read it. Reading Tillet's book gave me the context of the novel as I hoped but I was pleasantly surprised to find that I got much more than that. Tillet bares herself to us as readers sharing her own experience of sexual assault, an experience which helped her resonate so strongly with the character of Celie who herself is sexually assaulted as a young girl. 

Her strong connection with Celie and its feminist author, Alice Walker, caused Tillet to start the journey of understanding how the story came to be the phenomenon it is today. Along the way she learns the novel was not initially well received by critics and that the black community was largely unhappy with the way in which black men were portrayed. Tillet also learns the complicated story of the novel's depiction on screen and on stage. Strangely Steven Spielberg the director of the film, chose to discard the screenplay Walker wrote in favour of one that seemed to shy away from confronting some of the more difficult issues raised in the book. Walker herself did not like the film and felt it missed the message she was trying to convey. Having had this experience, she was understandably wary when she was approached by another white man to take the story to the stage. Ultimately, she agreed to the proposal and was happier with the stage version than the one on screen. However, Walker's experience both with the film and stage versions of The Color Purple speaks to a larger question of who gets to tell which stories and why own voices representation is so important. 

I thought Tillet did a good job of explaining why The Color of Purple is such an important book to her and the complicated story of its publication, its journey to the screen and its most recent incarnation on the stage. I learned things I didn't know about the original and appreciated Tillet's willingness to share details of her own life. This book is very much for fans of The Color Purple, those who haven't read the book or have no interest in reading it may find their minds wandering but for me it was an enlightening and  enjoyable experience and has only further enshrined Walker's classic as one of my all time favourites.
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This was an interesting read deconstructing the experience of Alice Walker and Salamishah Tillet with the Color Purple. It talks characterisation, pop culture revolution and how the Color Purple shaped public perception - including the controversies I hadn't realised due to it already being hailed a modern classic by the time I had heard of it and read it.
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I wasn’t aware of this forthcoming title until I received an ARC from NetGalley, and I wonder why I’m not hearing more people talking about this important, engaging, and well-researched look into one of the most important modern novels. 

Like many, I have a personal connection to Alice Walker’s The Color Purple—I first read it when I was sixteen and coming to terms with my lesbian identity and beginning to diverge from the traditional, white, male-centered Western canon. Those who feel a strong connection to Walker’s seminal novel may, at first, approach Salamishah Tillet’s In Search of the Color Purple with hesitation, for it’s a study unlike any other, attempting to do justice to a vital cultural phenomenon. Tillet not only succeeds but does so with grace and ease. 

Split into three sections, each titled “Celie,” “Shug,” and “Sofia,” Tillet, through meticulous research, interviews, and personal experience, explores the story behind the The Color Purple as well as its film and musical adaptations. The “Celie” section is by far the best, for it tells the story of Walker’s conception and birth of the novel, and as a student of literature and creative writing myself, I was most interested in the author herself and her relationship to her work. However, the sections on the film and musical didn’t lose me for a minute—Tillet’s writing is at once literary and accessible and fully grounded in a modern context, which sheds light on the enduring effects of The Color Purple’s influence. 

In Search of the Color Purple is a short book, but it’s many things: a biography of a novel; an exploration of racism, sexism, sexual abuse, and healing; the tale of one woman’s connection to a beautiful story; and a case study on the relationship between literature, film, music, and culture. Tillet also places emphasis on the Black women in and around The Color Purple, which is exactly where it should be. On a technical level, it’s also a well-written and well-organized book, and Tillet’s personal experience meshes with her research and interviews beautifully. 

This is an important book about an important book. Read it for yourself and continue the conversation. 

“Even in her loneliest moments following the fallout of The Color Purple, Alice gave us another model: out of our pain, we could make art. Through our forgiveness, a new family could be born.”
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Salamishah Tillet's forthcoming book tells the story of The Color Purple by Alice Walker: the novel, the film, and the musical adaptation. It covers the origins of the novel, Alice Walker's family members that inspired the characters, and the novel's reception in the literary world and Black culture. Tillet's book is part history of the novel and its legacy, part biography of Walker, and part memoir of Tillet's personal connection to the book. It is split into three parts, each part is named after a major character in the novel (Part 1: Celie, 2: Shug, 3: Sofia). Part 1 covers the novel, Part 2 covers the film adaptation, and Part 3 covers the musical adaptation and the novel's lasting legacy. I enjoyed learning more about Walker's familial foundations of the novel, how the film came to fruition including the search for cast members, and finally its lasting impact on women and especially sexual assault survivors. The strengths of this book is that Tillet was able to interview Alice Walker, Oprah Winfrey, Gloria Steinem, Quincy Jones, and others, and not having to depend solely on archival sources. Ultimately this book is a love letter to The Color Purple, fans of the book or movie will thoroughly enjoy reading it, I sure did.
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I received a digital advance reader’s copy of In Search of the Color Purple by Salamishah Tillet from the publisher (Abrams Press). In Search of the Color Purple is scheduled for release on January 12, 2021.

In Search of the Color Purple is a nonfiction exploration of the story behind The Color Purple. Tillet approaches this exploration as both an academic and a person who continues to be deeply impacted by the story. To research this book, Tillet interviewed Alice Walker, Oprah Winfrey, and other individuals involved in the publication of the novel, the adaptation to film, and the adaptation to the Broadway stage. Tillet weaves together the stories behind the story with the effects the story had on her personally, as well as the waves that rolled from The Color Purple out into the world.

I have read The Color Purple several times, as well as viewed the film adaptation. As a white woman, I could appreciate some of what the novel had to say. I also knew that as a white woman, there were layers below what I could see that I was unaware of. In Search of the Color Purple took me down into the story through the point of view of a black woman. Tillet has a deep understanding of the issues of race and feminism woven throughout the book, as well as an understanding of the intersection of race and feminism. This intersection was the largest piece that I had overlooked before, so reading this book opened up layers of the story that had been inaccessible to me.

Tillet also explores how The Color Purple in its various formats was received by the world. As the novel was unafraid to address racism, sexism, incest, and abuse on the page, many people took issue with the story. Tillet’s exploration tackles these responses, considering why so many different views of the story came into being.

While there were a few spots where Tillet’s writing was a bit rough or choppy, In Search of the Color Purple was an enlightening journey through the birth, live, and afterlife of a powerful story. I recommend this book to anyone who loves The Color Purple, or who thinks there might be more for them to understand about the story.
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I was lucky enough to win an electronic ARC of IN SEARCH OF THE COLOR PURPLE by Salamishah Tillet through a Shelf Awareness giveaway. Thank you for the early look, and I hope you have a safe and socially distanced holiday!
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You could easily call this a biography of a book/movie. The reader learns exactly how the book was born, how the characters spoke to Walker and how Tillet herself relates to the book. It's everything you ever wanted to know about this legendary novel and more. Although it flows and reads well--accessible to an average reader-- it will no doubt also be used in academia to analyze Walker's work.
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Delighted to have been allowed read this. Thank you Netgalley .

The first  pages in this book are Tillets telling of her love for "The Color Purple" and its author Alice Walker. 
The behind the scenes look at the characters and her telling of  parts of Alice Taylors story make it a lovely read.  If you loved the book as I did I think you will enjoy "In Search of the Colour Purple"
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I am big fan of the book colour purple. It redefined my perception of a standard English bestseller. It didn't focus on structuring of plots and grammer and impressive prose and paragraphs. It focussed on emotions and tough circumstances. It stays with reader long after it gets completed.
This books explores everything surrounding book. Life of Alice. Her family. Circumstances. Opposition and criticism. It also details backgrounds of characters of story and their impact on society.
It was good to read about life of author and her struggles against difficulties.
It is a nice read. Author relates her personal life with story.
A  very good book. Easily recommendable to fans of the colour purple.
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This is a helpful companion to a first reading of The Color Purple as it helps to crystallize the context of the book when it was written and discusses some of the controversies of its reception, including the Spielberg film on which Walker was a collaborator. 

Tillet is no objective analyst: she cites the book as one absolutely central to her own experience and maturation, sharing the way it speaks to her own trauma of sexual assault as well as the way it challenged her admitted one-time homophobia. This makes the book personal but subjectivity can also be one-sided: there are other controversies about Walker such as alleged troubled relationships with her family and support for the books of David Icke (yep, he of the shape-shifting lizards conspiracy theory!) that get no mention in here.

Despite some slanted interpretations, this mix of biography, autobiography and reception contextualises and historicises the novel in a helpful way.
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The best parts are the behind-the-scenes info. Celie’s story is largely that of Walker’s stepgrandmother plus tweaks. An editor thought the title was ‘too abstract’ and needed changing, which sounds like someone telling Wordsworth to lay off the daffodils. One of the Pulitzer judges wanted the award to go to a paperback reprint of Czeslaw Milosz’s morbid novel The Issa Valley, first published in the 50s. Tina Turner was approached to play Shug Avery in the film but turned the role down (she’d lived that life already with Ike).

It grates in places where the author tries to have her cake and eat it. Critics are right when they recognise the author’s genius yet heavily implied to be jealous, thick or prejudiced when they don’t. (Which must have included virtually everyone who reviewed the deeply naff The Temple of My Familiar.) Some biography is useful on behalf of the author, as the reader can judge what kind of person is laying out the rules. But the references to Tillet’s life, however tragic, are too frequent to be as effective as they ought to be. One really good, stand-out piece at the end would have served better than several mediocre ones.  

This isn’t hagiography but Tillet’s account is a flattering one, which means it tells less than the full story. The predicament of the activist that speaks up for all women yet treated her own daughter appallingly is never alluded to.

There is a great book waiting to be written about Alice Walker. This one will do while we wait for it.
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In Search of the Color Purple, The Story of an American Masterpiece, Salamisah Tillet  5/5 💜

Thanks to #NetGalley for an ARC of this book in exchange for a review. 

Salamisah explores the journey Alice Walker took to create The Color Purple, exploring both the book, film and broadway adaptions. Salamisah has discussions with those closest to Alice and Alice herself, discussing her life and the difficult paths she has taken to bring herself and the book where it is today. 

The Color Purple has over the span of its lifetime been both beloved and reviled. Salamisah explores why so many have both connected with the novel and how so many rejected it. 

I love The Color Purple, by chance I only reread it a few weeks ago. I have always found Alice Walkers writing to be phenomenal. Celie, Shug and Sofia are characters who transcend the page. This in depth exploration of those characters beginnings, the work, the life behind it captures the conversation that had continued for years around sexuality, feminism, gender and racial politics. This is one of my favourite books I have read this year. Incredible.
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Powerful, gripping and compelling, Salamishah Tullet sucks you into the journey of a writer on the road to writing one of America's at once most beloved and most hated classic stories, who's reach as spanned cultures and a generation.
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