The Temple of my Familiar- Alice Walker

“Long will we remember pain, but the pain itself, as it was at that point of intensity that made us feel as if we must die of it, eventually vanishes. Our memory of it becomes its only trace. Walls remain. They grow moss. They are difficult barriers to cross, to get to others, to get to closed-down parts of ourselves.” – Alice Walker, The Temple of my Familiar

It’s quite an intimidating feat to review this book. The Temple of my Familiar is such a rich, multi-layered story, the kind that you can ruminate on days after you’ve finished reading it, as I’m doing now. To me, this book is more than a story, it’s an education and it’s also a challenge. Walker educates by giving us facts and opinions on literature, race, gender, feminism among other topics. It challenges our preconceptions while offering alternative worldviews in areas such as race, religion, patriarchy and the like.

As it’s Walker, it’s only expected that political statements are made. In this case, one of the most profound ones was the “whitewashing” of history due to the impact of colonialism. African playwright Abajeralasezeola’s critique of colonialism is emphatic: “Clean out your ears: THE WHITE MAN IS STILL HERE. Even when he leaves, he is not gone.” I found that powerful as a reminder that Africa and other places are still under the scourge of colonialism, albeit modern day colonialism. If this weren’t the case, we would know our history. Walker posits that we are barred from knowing our ancient selves, from being who we truly are, from being because of this blockage . We have lost the connection:

“You cannot curse a part without damning the whole. That is why Mother Africa, cursed by all her children, black, white, and in between, is dying today, and, after her, death will come to every other part of the globe.”

The characters in the book were memorable. Miss Lissie was the most interesting to me, being a woman who had been reincarnated several times and had fascinating past lives. Following closely behind in the intrigue category was Miss Fannie, who was constantly falling in love with spirits.

I think this book is for everyone but there are passages that I believe will speak more strongly to women. For example, this line by Miss Lissie said “But what I refused to give up was my essence; nor could I. For it was simply this: I did not share their vision of reality, but have, and cherish my own.”

At the very least, everyone should read The Gospel According to Shug:…


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