Critical Essays on Alice Walker

By Ikenna Dieke | Go to book overview

"female circumcision." She also picked up on--or rather, caught up with--conservatism that is lenient on women-degrading attitudes and actions. Wesley further states that "they [the writers] have to speak when others dare not" (91). Regarding her transformed representation of African American men, Walker apparently has stopped being daring: with her new handling of the Man Question," by presenting acceptable African American male characters unlikely to rekindle old controversy, she appears to relegate the Woman Question to its historical subordinate position.


NOTES
1.
I assess Walker latest novel, Possessing the Secret of Joy, as a problematic representation of infibulation, one of three different forms of the so-called female circumcision. Briefly, some of my questions and concerns include: (1) The life and mental health of the African protagonist, Tashi, are entirely determined by the absence of her clitoris. Does that mean that "circumcised" women/African women are mental wrecks? Tashi is, in fact, reduced to her clitoris, that is, in my view, to nothing. (2) The African woman has no (positive) identity--she is stripped of her name and renamed in the United States. (3) Though appropriated, she seems to be a burden to everybody, including herself. (4) Walker does not cast the subject in a thoroughly credible, investigative social and cultural context; her main source is a dead, white European anthropologist, rather than African women and men. (5) Tashi's "case" demonstrates the benefits, perhaps primacy, of "civilized" society (the Western world) over a backward, even barbaric setting (dark Africa). For an excellent discussion of Walker's vision of Africa and African women, see Omofolabo Ajayi article, "Transcending the Boundaries of Power and Imperialism: Writing Gender, Constructing Knowledge" in Obi Nnaemeka and Ronke Oyewumi, eds., African Women and Imperialism ( Trenton, N.J.: Africa World Press, forthcoming).
2.
For Walker's definition of womanism. see In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens, xi-xii.
3.
This book is the short story with the same title included in Walker's collection In Love and Trouble: Stories of Black Women.
4.
The people Suwelo calls Kalahari Bushmen call themselves Basarwa.
5.
Some reviews by women not previously mentioned include: Carol Anshaw, "The Practice of Cruelty," rev. of Possessing the Secret of Joy, by Alice Walker ( Chicago Tribune, 21 June 1992: sec. 14.3); Karen Grigsby Bates, "Possessing the Secrets of $uccess: Toni Morrison is the Senior Member of a Triumphant Trio of Best-selling Writers" ( Emerge: Black America's Newsmagazine 4.1 October 1992): 47-9. Pearl Cleage, "A Stunning Journey for 'Joy,'" rev. of Possessing the Secret of Joy, by Alice Walker Atlanta Journal June 14, 1992: N8); Diedre Donahue, "Walker's Disturbing 'Secret': Novelist explores trauma of the mutilation of women"," rev. of Possessing the Secret of Joy, by Alice Walker, ( USA Today 18 June 1992): D1; Janette Turner Hospital, "What They Did to Tashi"," rev. of Possessing the Secret of Joy, by Alice Walker ( New York Times Book Review 28 June 1992: 11-12); Susan McHenry , "A Dialogue with Alice Walker"," Emerge: Black America's Newsmagazine 3.10, September 1992: 9-10); Patricia A. Smith, "'Secret of Joy': Walker's Tender, Terrifying Tour de Force," rev. of Possessing the Secret of Joy, by Alice Walker, Boston Globe ( 6 July 1992): 38. Some reviews by men not previously mentioned include: Charles R. Larson, "Against the Tyranny of Tradition"," rev. Possessing the Secret of Joy, by Alice Walker ( Washington Post 5 July 1992: WBK1, 14); Mel Watkins, "A Woman in Search of Her Past and Herself"," rev. of Possessing the Secret of Joy, by Alice Walker ( New York Times 24 July

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