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The Third Life of Grange Copeland Kindle Edition
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Top customer reviews
Attempts by successive generations of both genders to break out of their situations are failures, role models are absent and the cycles of desperation, drink and violence continue. We are used to reading fiction and watching media reports of inter-racial violence during this particular period in America, but this book is different in that the violence highlighted is that of black against black.
This is a challenging book to read in the 21st century and so one can only imagine the effect that it must have produced when first published in 1970, the first of Alice Walker's novels. Equally difficult to imagine is the effect that writing this novel must have had on the author since she would have known how it would be received by many of her community who wished to keep the truth of the lives and actions portrayed hidden in order to maximise the contrast between the downtrodden African-Americans and the racist whites. In an Afterword, the author describes the way in which the novel was written and the direct personal experiences that she incorporated.
As generation succeeds generation, cycles of violence and destruction repeat themselves in a way that suggests that these are the norm. The reader is shocked when there is a hint of a character trying to dispose of his "manliness" and seeking to behave in a manner that their society, in public, expects; the same is true when some of the women characters try to throw off their chains of victimisation. Just when it seems as if there might be an ending holding out the possibility of hope, certainly not a happy ending, the cycle turns once more and more violence ensues. Our hopes for the future lie in the hands of a young girl, Ruth, who has already been betrayed by "justice", but there seems little possibility that her life will be much different to those of her grandmother's or her mother's generation.
And yet we now read this story from the perspective of a world with an African-American President in the White House. Are we really so far removed from the final scenes of this novel?
The multiple aspects of "manliness" on which this book is centred remain as confused as ever and, today, are mouthed by rappers who may or may not believe what they say. Manliness can be a way of deflecting attention from one's internal and external fears, and one of the central characters sees it as devotion to wife and family and a commitment to fulfilling one's family responsibilities despite their oppression by racists. But these same racists control institutions and act, in a manner totally without responsibility, to prevent African-Americans from gaining power or privilege. Therefore, no matter how responsible African-Americans themselves are within their own families and communities, their access to wealth and hope will be controlled by others and restricted.
This is a magnificent, thought-provoking but very difficult book to read and understand because we would all prefer just to be readers and to see the violence elsewhere, anywhere but in our own communities. Alice Walker drags us from this comfortable position and forces us to consider our own responsibilities.
This is a harrowing story that set my emotions on a roller coaster ride. I went from sorrow, to anger, to frustration and horror. The men dominate the women and take all their frustrations out on their family to compensate for their feeling inferior and subservient to the white landowners. There were times I felt elated, thinking the family were finally going to break free of their cruel life (for example when Mem finally had enough of Brownfields beatings and threatened him with a gun) but the mindset and attitude of the people at this time sucked them right back in to the viscous, violent cycle.
This is not an easy story to read; it is written with an honesty that is raw and hurting, but this is a book that is very thought provoking and will stay in your mind forever.
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