The Secret of Joy

[youtube] In 1994, I went to Australia for three weeks. During that trip, our car was broken into. Our camera and plane tickets were gone, along with whatever other items we had in the back seat of the car. After doing a full inventory of what was missing and what we still had, I felt a tremendous wave of relief that there was one piece of paper that remained in our possession - a letter from Alice Walker's agent. Why I had this particular letter in Australia I'm not sure, but it was one of those items that I treasured beyond words, even though the letter was letting me know it would not be possible for me to interview Ms. Walker as part of the research I was doing for my graduate school thesis. At the time, I was reading everything by Alice Walker I could get my hands on - her novels, her essays, all of it - and having this tiny shred of a connection to her, which was nothing more than a piece of her letterhead, inspired me beyond words. I sent a request to her, and someone on her team actually read it and responded to it. It was a small gesture that didn't even result in the interview I was seeking, but it mean the world to me nonetheless.

Alice Walker is with me all the time, in my day to day, as she has been since I was a graduate student when I was writing a thesis that discussed the educational theories of Paulo Freire as they could be applied to the eradication of female genital mutilation. This practice was just beginning to gain attention in the media while I was in graduate school, thanks in no small part to Alice Walker's novel Possessing the Secret of Joy, whose main character is, to put it mildly, dealing with the repercussions of this experience. It was this novel that inspired me to write the thesis I did, and it was Alice Walker who first opened the door to the world of personal essays for me. Although it was many years before I began my own full-fledged journey as a writer, her influence never left me.

In the midst of more than a dozen moves since graduate school, I eventually ended up losing that letter, as well as my thesis. I keep hoping someday they will turn up, stuffed in a folder or a box or some long-lost notebook, but until then I'm content with the memory, ungraspable as it is. Letter or no letter, Alice Walker is with me, every single day.

Shug:  More than anything God love admiration.  Celie:  You saying God is vain?  Shug:  No, not vain, just wanting to share a good thing. I think it pisses God off when you walk by the colour purple in a field and don't notice it. Celie:  You saying it just wanna be loved like it say in the bible?  Shug:  Yeah, Celie. Everything wanna be loved. Us sing and dance, and holla just wanting to be loved. Look at them trees. Notice how the trees do everything people do to get attention... except walk?  [they laugh] Shug:  Oh Miss Celie, I feels like singing! 

~ Alice Walker, The Color Purple