Fiction

Review: You can’t keep a good woman down by Alice Walker

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Hi people!

I haven’t posted here for a very long time, I’m sorry about that. However, I do have an excuse: first, I was busy changing the design of this blog (I hope you like this new design by the way!). And then, I went to Japan, where I spent two wonderful weeks of holiday. But I am back with a short review (I’m going to try to keep my blog posts short, and I feel that it’s not going to be easy…) of a powerful short stories collection (wow, a lot of “short” in this sentence, isn’t it?): You can’t keep a good woman down by Alice Walker.

I don’t really read short stories because I find it easier to get into the story when you have time to discover the characters. Most of the time, novels introduce and develop realistic characters we can feel close to, or relate to. This is not often the case with short stories I find. But this short story collection pleasantly surprised me. Its short stories are very powerful: they deal with important and harsh themes such as murder, rape, abortion, family, racism and so on. Obviously, this is not a short story collection you should read if you are depressed or looking for a light and easy reading, to say the least. These short stories will arouse strong feelings in you but they will also make you think. Impossible not to think when reading them. Some of them are actually built like fictional mini essays.

As I said, this collection tackles a lot of themes, but there is a theme that always comes back, as a thread linking all these short stories: being a black woman – what it means, to yourself and to society, what it involves, what it deprives you from or what it gives you. All these short stories are narrated by black women. You may think that because of this, they are a bit repetitive and their main characters or narrator are very similar/stereotyped but not at all. Each black woman, either narrator or character, has her own personality, story and voice. You feel very close to some of them (despite not sharing this experience of being Black, I believe that every woman, no matter her skin colour, will identify to some extent to some of the characters/narrators of these short stories) and you feel more detached towards others, maybe, but you always get into their stories.

Finally, I really liked the author’s style, in which you can detect some kind of fury. What transpires from this collection is the author’s commitment to feminism and equality (between races, between sexes, between two human beings). Some short stories are a bit didactic and you can clearly see that Alice Walker uses them to develop her analysis of a specific theme (how porn depicts black body, for instance, and how it depicts white body, and the consequences). These short stories are very interesting but they’re not the best ones to me. I like when Walker’s writing stops being analytic and takes us into a story, whether it is ordinary or a bit crazy, and makes us feel the rage, the emotion, the sadness or the willpower of its characters. Without knowing anything of Alice Walker, I understood while reading this short story collection that she was an activist as much as a writer and it is so good! I’ve been reading a lot of gentle, sanitized books lately and this book clearly stands up. Now my next move will be to research about Alice Walker’s life (I’m sure it’s fascinating!) and to read more of her works.

Guys, if you have recently read any interesting short story collections, please let me know in the comments!

You can’t keep a good woman down by Alice Walker. Published by The Women’s Press, 2001 for this edition

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