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The Color Purple
Illustrated by Lela Harris
Preface by the author
One of the greatest works of modern fiction, Alice Walker's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Color Purple is presented in a beautifully crafted new Folio edition, illustrated by British artist Lela Harris.
‘Not a word is wasted, every breath accounted for. We all know that this is one of the greatest books of all time’
- Benjamin Zephaniah
The Color Purple is one of the great novels of the 20th century, exploring the extremes of human nature through the eyes of a young African American woman in 1930s Georgia. Deemed controversial on publication for its explicit portrayal of abuse – it was banned in American school libraries until 2013 – The Color Purple is an important and beautifully imagined novel that will deeply affect and enrich everyone who reads it.
This much-anticipated Folio edition celebrates the cultural significance of Alice Walker’s novel with a cover designed by artist Lela Harris and inspired by the renowned quiltmakers of Gee’s Bend, Alabama, a collective of female artisans. Inside, Harris’s emotive charcoal illustrations capture the vulnerability of the characters, while Walker’s note on revisiting the novel decades after publication reiterates its importance as a record of ‘vanished voices’.
Bound in printed and blocked cloth
Set in Berkeley
Frontispiece and 6 charcoal illustrations
9˝ x 5¾˝
‘I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it’
- Shug from The Color Purple
British artist Lela Harris is entirely self-taught and her achingly beautiful illustrations, newly commissioned for our edition, perfectly depict the key characters in Walker’s novel. Each black-and-white charcoal drawing includes a flash of purple in homage to the book title, and Harris catches her subjects off-guard or in pensive moods as they bare their souls while their stories are told. The portraits make this the only illustrated edition in print and were personally approved by Alice Walker, who described them as having ‘soul and expertise’. Harris’s astounding artwork continues to the binding, which is a collage of subject matter and media; a stunning design inspired by the quiltmakers of Gee’s Bend, Alabama. The women in this remote Black community have crafted quilts since the early 20th century and their history resonates with Celie’s, whose sewing skills elevate her self-worth and give her independence.
‘A work to stand beside literature of any time and place’
- San Francisco Chronicle
When her abusive father hands her over to a widower struggling to keep house and four children, Celie is separated from her beloved sister Nettie and sentenced to a life of drudgery, beatings and indifference. As a Black woman living in the early 20th-century Deep South, gender and race discrimination are part of Celie’s daily existence. Walker deals with these themes head-on in an extraordinary and historically important novel that portrays a snapshot of a lost time. Celie’s letters – first to God and later to Nettie – are written in African American Vernacular, which elicits a deep connection with the characters and the era. The language evolves as Celie’s confidence grows, her voice soaring when Shug Avery steps into her story. A glamorous singer with an independent income and a past littered with broken hearts, Shug is the first person in Celie’s adult life to love and believe in her, and Celie finally feels able to take control of her own destiny.
Alice Walker was born into a sharecropping family in rural Georgia in 1944. After coming top of her class in a segregated high school, she won a scholarship to college, and graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in Yonkers, New York in 1965. On returning to the South, she worked in Mississippi: for the NAACP, as a writer-in-residence, and as a college teacher. She was an activist in the civil rights and feminist movements – notably as a contributor to Ms magazine and a pioneer in the rehabilitation of neglected writers of colour such as Zora Neale Hurston. After publishing novels and poetry during the 1970s she gained widespread international acclaim for The Color Purple, for which she won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Since then, she has continued to work as a writer – of fiction, poetry, memoir and essays – and an activist who developed the theory of ‘womanism’ to explore her experience as a feminist of colour.
Lela Harris is a self-taught artist who lives and works in the English Lake District. Most of her time is either spent daydreaming about art or making art in her small home studio. A key component of her work is experimenting with materials, discovering new techniques and exploring different subject matters, resulting in an eclectic mix of work. This is Lela’s first professional illustration commission. Lela is also a graphic designer and the owner of Doodlelove, a company specialising in limited-edition prints and stationery.
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