Joyful Resistance

Book Card  -  Volume 30  -  Book Review Number 1  -  Wed, Nov 3, 1993 7:20 PM

TITLE: The Secret of the Possession of Joy
AUTHOR: Alice Walker

I borrowed this book from the library and I've returned it so I can't fill in the above.

The book truly is an unfolding tale. In fact you really don't know the plot until the end of the book. Alice Walker did a lovely job of revealing the story.

The plot seems secondary to the subject of the book which is female circumcision. Yes, ouch.

The gory facts first. I thought female circumcision was the removal of the clitoris. Wrong. It is the removal of the clitoris and the labia. This is a tribal custom in many parts of Africa. The "surgery" is performed by designated tribal members, usually women, who use broken bottles, tin cans, sharp rocks or anything sharp to perform the operation. Then the opening is "sewn" together with sticks.

The necessary hole that is left is small in order to please the males. Many times this hole is so small the opening is non-functional, urine and blood do not totally leave the body and this creates infection. When the woman has her first sexual experience often times the hole is too small and the male opens it with a sharp object. Also the muscles of the legs are often damaged and they shuffle when they walk.

Ms. Walker believes this practice is the reason for the spread of AIDS in Africa.

I will leave the details of the plot to you. Essentially the book is about a woman who was circumcised and her pain both mental and physical and how she deals with the pain. Her mental pain deals with why women do this to other women and why do her people still practice it.

She had the surgery because of a leader who encouraged the people to keep their tribal customs. At one point she says, "What do you do when your savior betrays you?" Her pain is the realization that the old ways aren't necessarily the best and that one can choose to resist. Her conclusion is that resistance is the secret to the possession of joy.

What these women go through is phenomenal and I can't compare my experience with them but in my own way in my own life I understood. I grew up a very good and believing Mormon. The church encourages people to do their geneology back four generations, well my fourth generation back grandfather did geneology while he was on the run from the law for poligamy. I have always been proud of my religion.

Sometime at BYU I had a creeping feeling that something was not right. The feeling has never gone away, it has only intensified inspite of my efforts to exorcise it by being a better Mormon, there is always one more thing one can do, you can't criticize unless you are perfect.

About two years ago Rick said, "You can't keep this up. You go to church and say you believe it and then you come home and get upset about what happened there. I'll support you which ever way you go but you have to decide, you can't be both." So after a long struggle with myself I have left something that means a great deal to me.

I understood the woman in the book giving and doing because she believed those who said she had to and then I understood the feeling of betrayal when the end result isn't what was promised and suddenly realizing you didn't have to "do" at all. Suddenly realizing you had a choice.