Alice Walker is one of my favorite authors ever, hands down. The Temple of My Familiar might have been the first book to ever make me think of things in a spiritual way, and Meridian basically made me a feminist. Not to mention The Color Purple, which is huge. Huge. It seized the collar of my adolescent Philadelphia-white-trash t-shirt and pulled me into another world, another place, made me realize that there were people other than myself, told me that being a woman was not all dressing sexy and laughing at nerd boys, and that there was in fact a greater world out there. (And the film version was, of course, directed by Steven Spielberg, my favorite director person at the time.)
Keep this in mind when you read this article from JPost about Ms. Walker forbidding a new translation of The Color Purple into Hebrew:
In a June 9 letter to Yediot Books, Walker said she would not allow the publication of the book into Hebrew because “Israel is guilty of apartheid and persecution of the Palestinian people, both inside Israel and also in the Occupied Territories.”
In her letter, posted Sunday by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel on its website, Walker supported the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement and offered her hope that the BDS movement “will have enough of an impact on Israeli civilian society to change the situation.”
There are so many reasons this is ridiculous. But there’s only one thing that sticks out in my mind: That Ms. Walker is denying the power of stories. Maybe she doesn’t want to accept Israeli money, and that’s legit. But it’s a freaking BOOK ABOUT OPPRESSION. Wouldn’t it make sense to publish and spread it in Israel? Or does she think Israelis are beyond redemption? Doesn’t she think that art has the possibility to change people’s minds and attitudes? Doesn’t she think that more people reading The Color Purple could actually alter the dynamic of a society that is going through major hurdles, in terms of race and gender and sexuality at this very moment?
Maybe Walker is denying Israel a book that Israelis really actually need to read. (Or, Israelis: maybe you should just pick up a copy of Po Man’s Child by Marci Blackman, which has a similar message, and is really pretty amazing.)
By the way, there’s been at least one suggestion on Facebook to crowdsource a new translation. Which I sort of love, as a way of pulling the carpet out from under everybody’s feet at once.