By: Alice Walker
Subject Matter: African American college students; African American women; Voter registration; Southern states; Atlanta
You probably know Alice Walker from The Color Purple.
Like that novel, Meridian is a depiction of the African-American experience. Walker is clearly attempting to portray something about what it means to be a black woman in America.
But for me, Meridian falls short.
On paper, this book has everything I generally appreciate in a novel. It jumps around in time, the characters are eccentric and diverse, there’s an unwillingness to portray a commercialized stereotype in favor of human truths.
But none of it really works. The nonchronological setup seems pointless, the characters are so eccentric that they don’t feel real and in some cases even come across one-dimensionally, and the real bits of human truth get lost in the extravagant story lines.
What this book does wonderfully, however, is to ask the hard questions and to show the reality of gender divides. Walker shows the difference between being a male Civil Rights activist and a female one, between being a male student and a female one, between being a father and a mother, and between the life opportunities that are open to each. She also forces you to question your conceptions of motherhood and love and sex.
So this book isn’t completely worthless. It just feels a bit too over the top to me. And maybe that’s the point; maybe Walker had to go over the top in order to talk about these kinds of issues.
She covers so many topics. Motherhood. Abortion. Marriage. Orgasms. Voting rights. Mental illness. Divorce. Love. Rape. Interracial couples. Education. Sexual harrassment. Religion. It’s all there.
But it’s all so hidden and convoluted that I couldn’t make much meaning out of it.
And, my biggest qualm in this book is that it doesn’t feel like there’s any hope at all in this book. It’s one terrible thing after another, with few, if any real, happy moments interspersed in there. In a Raisin in the Sun way. Which is probably part of Walker’s point, but it makes it awfully hard to enjoy books that raise my stress level this much. I wanted some happiness, some real unsarcastic laughter, some mutual love, something redeeming, something to make me want to relate to these characters. For me, it wasn’t there.
If you enjoyed Meridian, check these out:
(for other works by Walker)
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
The Third Life of Grange Copeland by Alice Walker
(for themes of hopelessness)
A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
(for Civil Rights themes)
Freshwater Road by Denise Nicholas
The Known World by Edward P. Jones
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis