Possessing the Secret of Joy
Possessing the Secret of Joy tells the story of Tashi, a character we were briefly introduced to in The Color Purple who had “left Africa but had taken her wound with her to America”.
Tashi is a tribal African woman who lives much of her adult life in North America. As a young woman, a misguided loyalty to the customs of her people led her to voluntarily submit to the tsunga’s knife and be genitally mutilated. Severely traumatised by this experience, she spends the rest of her life battling madness. Trying desperately through psychotherapy – she is treated by disciples of both Freud and C.G. Jung, and even by Jung himself. Just trying to regain the ability to recognise her own reality and to feel.
It is only with the help of the most unlikely ally she can imagine that she begins to make ground. She studies the mythological “reasons” invented by her ancient ancestors for what was done to her and to millions of other women and girls over thousands of years. As her understanding grows, so does her capacity to encounter her overwhelming grief. Underneath this grief is her glowing anger. Anger propels her to act. Action brings both feeling – life, the ability to exist with awareness in the moment – and death, of which she finds she has completely lost her fear.
While not strictly a sequel to The Color Purple or The Temple of My Familiar, Possessing the Secret of Joy follows the life of a barely-glimpsed character from those books. Combining fact and fiction, communing with the spirits of the living and the dead, Alice Walker in this novel strikes with graceful power at the heart of one of the most controversial issues of our time.
“There was a boulder lodged in my throat. My heart surged pitifully. I knew what the boulder was; that it was a word; and that behind that word I would find my earliest emotions.”