'The Color Purple' is Published

"The Color Purple" is foremost the story of Celie, a poor, barely literate Southern black woman who struggles to escape the brutality and degradation of her treatment by men.

The tale is told primarily through her own letters, which, out of isolation and despair, she initially addresses to God. As a teen-ager she is repeatedly raped and beaten by her stepfather, then forced by him into loveless marriage to Albert, a widower with four children. To Albert, who is in love with vivacious and determinedly independent blues singer named Shug Avery, Celie is merely a servant and an occasional sexual convenience. When his oldest son, Harpo, asks Albert why he beats Celie, he says simply, "Cause she my wife." For a time Celie accepts the abuse stoically: "He beat me like he beat the children. Cept he don't never hardly beat them. He say, Celie, get the belt... It all I can do not to cry. I make myself wood. I say to myself, Celie, you a tree. That's how come I know trees fear men."

Originally published in 1982, "The Color Purple" was greeted with critical acclaim -- Newsweek called it a novel of "permanent importance." Set in rural Georgia, "The Color Purple" focuses on the travails of Celie, who comes of age as the object of all kinds of abuse: emotional, physical and sexual, often at the hands of the black men in her life, including her step-father and husband. Celie finds spiritual redemption via the letters she writes to God, her friendship with Shug Avery, a blues singer and former mistress of Celie's husband and the womanist moxie exhibited by Celie's daughter-in-law Sophia. The year after its publication, "The Color Purple" was awarded the American Book Award and Pulitzer Prize for fiction.