“The Temple of My Familiar” by Alice Walker

There are certain books you’re just so eager to finish so that you can write a review on. Alice Walker’s “The Temple of My Familiar” was one of them for me. I almost felt bad at having to rush through this rich book, when this could have easily been something a class in English Literature could have devoted at least half a semester on. I could so see myself sitting in the cold and tiny rooms of the Humanities building at SNU, fervently taking notes in my carefully chosen notebook, while studying this book, and the simple thought of it made me happy.

I had my concerns when I first started the book, because it said that it was a sequel to the other famous piece by Alice Walker, “The Color Purple”, and it had been a while since I had read it, and could barely remember the story. I only knew I had liked it and although I did debate on whether to read it once more before starting on this one, I was too lazy to do so. However, I don’t think it is fair to call it a ‘sequel’. Sure, there are some characters that do appear on both books, but I think “The Temple of My Familiar” encompasses much more than its ‘prequel’. I’m not saying that this one is superior or inferior to the other, but simply that I find “The Temple of My Familiar” as going through a wider range of dimensions, both in characters, periods and locations. The book introduces a variety of characters, all of which are magically and strangely ‘other selves’ of Miss Lissie through time. And while each character and personality emanates a distinct feature, what they all have in common is their state of oppression. Whether it is because they are of the oppressed sex or of the oppressed color, they all have to face the disdain, ignorance and violence from those around them.

The fact that Miss Lissie remembers all her ‘past selves’, although irrational to the logical mind, doesn’t seem strange at all in this setting. On the contrary, I think that as women, we should all be able to remember the plight of women through time, and Miss Lissie embodies that very necessity through her own self. To push it to the limits, I think that women today should all be feminists in some way or the other. How could you not be when you see the progress women have made today, from the time they were considered less than a citizen being able to vote? How could you not be when everyday still, crimes and violence are so blatantly committed against them, against us? And being aware of such, we have to learn how to be free as women, like Carlotta, like Zede, like Fanny.

Although the narration of the book does take you into a swirl of women, times and places that it becomes hard to keep up if you don’t pay attention, the lives of these women, woven together, are truly an inspiring delight to read. I really wish I had devoted more serious time while reading the book, taking notes here and there, on my diary, my planner, in the margins, etc, but as always I’ve been too lazy to do that.

One thing I have realized through this book is how us women, and any other oppressed group for that matter, should, in a way, be thankful for what has been done to and imposed on us. I’m not saying that oppression is good, misery is beneficial, and all that nonsense, but if you look at it, that very state of oppression through centuries is what has allowed feminist writers like  Alice Walker or Toni Morrison to produce such beautiful and enchanting literary works. That’s one thing that the ‘oppressors’ will never know and experience, and the one thing that we should be proud of. Words and literature are truly the noblest and most dignified form of resistance.

“A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle”


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