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Feb—The Color Purple (2016) > Possessing the Secret of Joy

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message 1: by Samantha (new)

Samantha Pearson | 16 comments After finishing The Color Purple and reading that Alice Walker had intended this novel, Possessing the Secret of Joy and The Temple of my Familiar as a family of books, I immediately searched the university library and have borrow both; and instantly began reading Possessing the Secret of Joy (Tashi's story).

I am currently on page 72, not far into the book at all. And without revealing spoilers, I thought I'd give a small warning to those of you considering reading this book. From The Color Purple we know Tashi's underwent female genital mutilation, a Pharaonic Circumcision. I am finding myself quite shocked, horrified and a little anxious reading through some pages of this book from Tashi's perspective. So, trigger warning.

That being said, I will persevere because I believe it important to do so, to understand, to open my mind to the peril of millions and millions, billions of women over the world and throughout history. And important for my growth as a woman, a reader, a feminist, a mother, a human.

If anyone else is reading this, and The Temple of my Familiar (that's next on the list for me) please feel free to share your thoughts here; it'd be great the discuss.

Sam


message 2: by Samantha (new)

Samantha Pearson | 16 comments "even so long ago God deserted woman, I thought, staying by her just long enough to illustrate to man the cutting to be done." Page 167


message 3: by Katelyn, Our Shared Shelf Moderator (new)

Katelyn (katelynrh) | 836 comments Mod
Samantha wrote: "After finishing The Color Purple and reading that Alice Walker had intended this novel, Possessing the Secret of Joy and The Temple of my Familiar as a family of books, I immediately searched the u..."

Thanks for starting this thread! It is my intention to get around to reading these eventually, and when I do, I'll come back here.

And thanks for the warning!


message 4: by Samantha (new)

Samantha Pearson | 16 comments "Resistance is the secret of joy"


message 5: by Samantha (new)

Samantha Pearson | 16 comments This book was incredible. Different and brilliant in its own right to The Color Purple. Haven't quite got more I can add right now, quite overwhelmed by it.


message 6: by MeerderWörter (new)

MeerderWörter | 2388 comments For all of us living in non-English-speaking countries. I found "Possessing the Secret of Joy" in the English studies department of the university's library. You should give it a try. The public library didn't have a single copy and considering that it's written in the 90's, it's not so young anymore. I'm eager to read it.


message 7: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Marie Gabriel (lisamariegabriel) | 4 comments It sounds like a book well worth looking for and adding to the want to read shelf.


message 8: by Gaïane (new)

Gaïane | 4 comments This is an amazing book. I completely understand your being overwhelmed, I read it years ago and I'm hesitating to open it again...
Do you think we could find a way to link considerations on the novel to the already existing threads on genital mutilation?


message 9: by Adina (new)

Adina Hilton (adinahilton14) | 10 comments Thanks for the recommendation about this book, I didn't even know Walker had other novels related to "The Color Purple." I did a small research project on Female Genital Mutilation in college, and was horrified to learn how widespread it is, and how it even happens in 1st world countries like the U.S.


message 10: by Leonie (new)

Leonie | 1 comments Gaïane you are so right on. I read this book over a decade ago and it has lived with me ever since. I remember it as an evocative and traumatic reading but oh so important. The day I finished it I drove straight to my mother's house from my university digs and insisted she read it. I haven't read The Colour Purple (yet) but my mum had and often suggested I read it. I will one day get round to it!

I will also return to Possessing the Secret of Joy as not only did it have such a great effect on me I thoroughly enjoyed being overwhelmed and enlightened. It was gripping and thrilling to be so overpowered by my emotions and under such direction from an author. No other book has so dominated me.

The story is about so much much more than 'a good read' and once again Alice Walker makes hugely important demands of her readers, you are engaged throughout, you will ask questions of your world and you will be rewarded with vitality and vigour.

You. Must. Read. This. Book.


message 11: by Samantha (new)

Samantha Pearson | 16 comments Gaïane I am not sure about how to link directly to threads on genital mutilation sadly. But this novel does explore some deep issues and emotions behind genital mutilation. I'd be interested to know if anyone else feels that, in a "western" or "developed" country, routine circumcision of boys also falls under the category of genital mutilation and deserves the same disgust and horror we see female genital mutilation to be? (Despite I know that female gentian mutilation is of course a much more drastic and horrifying procedure). I do not even know if routine male circumcision is required for hygiene purposes in "developing" nations still.


message 12: by Katelyn, Our Shared Shelf Moderator (new)

Katelyn (katelynrh) | 836 comments Mod
There have been a couple of threads explicitly dedicated to genital mutilation, but I think it's been discussed in other threads as well.

Female genital mutilation: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...

Circumcision: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...


message 13: by MeerderWörter (new)

MeerderWörter | 2388 comments I have it here on my desk and will start to read it soon.


message 14: by Gaïane (new)

Gaïane | 4 comments I've started re-reading it, maybe I'll see links more closely.
As for circumcision, I find it disturbing, but I must admit I don't know much about whether it's still much done, or the real reason(s) behind it...


message 15: by MeerderWörter (new)

MeerderWörter | 2388 comments I can only say that circumcision is still happening, even in the centre of Europe, because people with intersex traits are partly male and female, shifting between the sexes. Therefore, they are operated to fit common sex parameters.


message 16: by Samantha (new)

Samantha Pearson | 16 comments I just watched a documentary on labioplasticy (surgery to the vulva to decrease the size/change shape of the inner labia, lips, and clitoral hood). I am stuck in my mind. I cannot make an opinion on this. Having just read this novel and started reading about the female genital mutilation that still occurs in or world, and male for that matter regarding routine circumcision in my opinion, how can we have cosmetic (some medical needs to do but most cases are cosmetic) surgery on our vulva?! And yet the feminist and scientist in me begins to argue with myself: you have tattoos don't you, yes. You have piercings and dye your hair, yes. Choose clothes that you believe look good on you, cut you hair, groom your pubic hair, remove hair on other parts of your body, are about to have braces put on for 90% cosmetic reasons, what about that teeth whiting? Yes yes yes ok I hear you! Where is the line drawn? I believe we, women, men, people, should have the right to express ourselves and feel physically comfortable within ourselves, whether that means makeup, hair colours, earrings, different clothes. So at what point can I say there is a line that's crossed? If the surgery is done because of personal, non forced beliefs and comfort and does not harm another: is that ok? Or are all our beliefs about ourselves and our appearance only internalised from social/cultural constructs? Should we dye our hair or consider the broader reason why we wish to dye our hair? It's just when I have now seen this procedure performed and the horror it exudes in me and all the while knowing there are children in the world experiences the most horrible mutilation with no power of choice, I find myself thinking how could one do this to themselves voluntarily? Why? But then I'm quickly hit again with the, well where's the line? Question. Anyone in a similar position?


message 17: by Aglaea (new)

Aglaea | 987 comments Samantha wrote: "I just watched a documentary on labioplasticy (surgery to the vulva to decrease the size/change shape of the inner labia, lips, and clitoral hood). I am stuck in my mind. I cannot make an opinion o..."

Circumcision and FMG are both done on children who have no say on the matter, which is why I call both amputation. We can't go chopping off people's body parts randomly.

If we have a procedure done later in life, be it by a surgeon or voluntarily in a back alley to bleed the blood (FMG) and risk getting infections and the whole nine yards of the butchering that is done for religious reasons, sure be my guest, but both procedures affect the child's sexual experience and as such make me condemn both completely. There's no excuse. We honour dead bodies, too, so why not innocent children? Okay, I'll stop now, it's making my blood boil and I'll say very rude things soon.

(If the cons to circumcision are unclear to some, please check the linked post above, where the argumentation is solid. Also, feel free to read up on David Reimer, who was born male as a twin, but yeah, just read it. He had to have circumcision due to physiological reasons and the result was horrendous. The aftermath is even more appalling.)


message 18: by MeerderWörter (new)

MeerderWörter | 2388 comments Samantha wrote: "I just watched a documentary on labioplasticy (surgery to the vulva to decrease the size/change shape of the inner labia, lips, and clitoral hood). I am stuck in my mind. I cannot make an opinion o..."

I can totally understand your argumentation and your dilemma. It's the same for me.


message 19: by Katelyn, Our Shared Shelf Moderator (new)

Katelyn (katelynrh) | 836 comments Mod
Aglaea wrote: "Samantha wrote: "I just watched a documentary on labioplasticy (surgery to the vulva to decrease the size/change shape of the inner labia, lips, and clitoral hood). I am stuck in my mind. I cannot ..."

Can you explain your reasoning for using the word "amputation" in this context? To me, amputation does not imply the patient having a lack of input or randomness (as is the case with circumcision, as you pointed out), but often is performed out of medical necessity, and with the consent of the patient unless they are incapable of giving consent (if they're unconscious after having been in an accident, for instance).

I don't necessarily disagree with you that it's an amputation, as it is the removal of a body part, but you qualify that with "have no say in the matter" and "randomly", so I was wondering if you could elaborate on how that relates to the concept of amputation more generally.


message 20: by Aglaea (new)

Aglaea | 987 comments Katelyn wrote: "Aglaea wrote: "Samantha wrote: "I just watched a documentary on labioplasticy (surgery to the vulva to decrease the size/change shape of the inner labia, lips, and clitoral hood). I am stuck in my ..."

Amputation:
"An amputation is the surgical removal of part of the body, such as an arm or leg."
NHS, UK.

Of course the normal reason to amputate is deformity, illness, etc., but in this case, removing a body part that the child had absolutely no possibility to speak up against most certainly classifies as amputation in my book.

I use the word to convey the violent act that it is. Violent? Yes, affecting the child's sexual experience for the rest of their life most certainly is violent, when they had no real chance to object to begin with.

Circumcision is violent because the boy can't object. People simply amputate a part of him.
Female genital mutilation is barbaric and belongs in the dark ages. The girl might be able to object because here we are kind enough to let her grow up a bit first, so she's as aware of the amputation as possible. Instead of standing up for her rights as any normal, stable person would do, her parents allow this monstrous procedure to be done to their daughter.

What the everloving fuck is wrong with people, who think chopping off body parts from others is normal and okay? Go chop off something from yourself instead, if it's that important to carve and butcher human flesh.


message 21: by Katelyn, Our Shared Shelf Moderator (last edited Apr 05, 2016 10:46AM) (new)

Katelyn (katelynrh) | 836 comments Mod
Aglaea wrote: "Katelyn wrote: "Aglaea wrote: "Samantha wrote: "I just watched a documentary on labioplasticy (surgery to the vulva to decrease the size/change shape of the inner labia, lips, and clitoral hood). I..."

Thank you for elaborating! I still don't really follow the connection with "having no say" and "random," but at a basic level as the removal of a body part, I follow your logic.

I would just caution you when you say: "What the everloving fuck is wrong with people, who think chopping off body parts from others is normal and okay? Go chop off something from yourself instead, if it's that important to carve and butcher human flesh."... I don't disagree with the sentiment that this is clearly a practice that is inhumane and wrong, but I wouldn't place the onus on any individual. It is likely that it has been done to them as well, and it has been culturally normalized to the point where not doing it would be the abnormal choice, and could also likely result in problems/backlash/scorn within the community (reminding me of the topic in The Color Purple of (view spoiler)). So blaming the individuals doesn't really accomplish anything. There's nothing "wrong with [them]", it's how things are in those communities. There may be social, political, economic, and physical risks to families and individuals who don't follow the practice, so even people who may recognize genital mutilation as a problem may weigh their options and still see it as less risky than the results of not doing it.

It's important to try to shed ethnocentric perspectives. I'm not saying that it shouldn't be seen as a violation, or that there shouldn't be an effort to end the practice, but the individuals aren't really responsible, and blaming them and questioning their sanity doesn't accomplish anything.


message 22: by Kressel (last edited Apr 06, 2016 09:58AM) (new)

Kressel Housman | 436 comments I thought this Kickstarter campaign would interest anyone reading this book. It's to give support to women who've gone through genital mutilation.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/...


message 23: by Kressel (new)

Kressel Housman | 436 comments My cousin is running it. I have no idea how she got into it.


message 24: by Aglaea (new)

Aglaea | 987 comments Katelyn wrote: "Aglaea wrote: "Katelyn wrote: "Aglaea wrote: "Samantha wrote: "I just watched a documentary on labioplasticy (surgery to the vulva to decrease the size/change shape of the inner labia, lips, and cl..."

I understand that we may disagree on wording. I'm not saying someone is 'insane' when I state that something is wrong with the rationale of deciding to remove another person's body part. It is wrong on a fundamental level the way I see it (I believe in full bodily autonomy at all times, even in death), and therefore something is wrong with those parents.

There is no medical reason whatsoever for these procedures unless the foreskin is too narrow for example. Anyone who hasn't read Waris Dirie should do so. I read it years ago and was repulsed for weeks. The girl clearly did not want the FGM.

The 'have no say' refers to the fact that the kids have no possibility of answering yes or no as the adults they will one day be. So even if they would be consulted (as infant boy or 5-6 yo girl) before the in my view brutal event, they couldn't possibly know what they would feel on the topic when they are old enough to decide for themselves. I see it a parent's duty to protect the bodily autonomy in all ways, rather than take from one's child something that wasn't yours to take. Maybe I'm awkwardly Western on this topic, I don't mind though.


message 25: by Kressel (new)

Kressel Housman | 436 comments Here's a chilling radio show about female circumcision: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio...


message 26: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie (msrichardsreads) That book was so hard for me to get through emotionally, but so worth it. I got into it because I was writing a research paper on FGM at the time. I know it is hard, but you can do it.


message 27: by MeerderWörter (new)

MeerderWörter | 2388 comments Aglaea wrote: "Samantha wrote: "Also, feel free to read up on David Reimer, who was born male as a twin, but yeah, just read it. He had to have circumcision due to physiological reasons and the result was horrendous. The aftermath is even more appalling."

Please, don't tell me this is a John/Joan case? Because these cases are in fact horrible.

And the answer where the crossing line is:
On any medical intervention that is irreversible we need fully informed consent, in my opinion, and a 5 year old child can't give you fully informed consent.

Third thing: As fas as I know, the People who practice MGM and FGM in Africa believe that there are parts of the other sex, which need to be taken away, in order to make them totally one sex.


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