Alice Walker's The Colour Purple, published in 1982, tells the story of Celie, a Black woman in the South. Celie writes letters to God in which she tells about her life--her roles as daughter, wife, sister, and mother. In the course of her story, Celie meets a series of other Black women who shape her life: Nettie, Celie's sister, who becomes a missionary teacher in Africa; Shug Avery, the Blues singer her husband Mr. ______ is in love with, and who becomes Celie's salvation; Sofia, the strong-willed daughter-in-law whose strength and courage inspire Celie; and Squeak, who goes through awakenings of her own. Throughout the story, though, Celie is the center of this community of women, the one who knows how to survive.
Alice Walker's The Color Purple is an example of a "woman's novel." This means not just that it was written by a woman, but that it carries on an identified tradition of women's writing, in terms of narrative strategies, themes addressed, and voice. This is not to say that all women write about the same things; but there is a tradition known as women's literature, which has developed with a consciousness of women's traditions of writing as distinct from mens' ways of writing. The African-American theorist and writer bell hooks (Gloria Watkins) has argued in an essay,"Writing the Subject: Reading The Color Purple" (in Henry Louis Gates, Jr., ed., Reading Black, Reading Feminist, 1990), that >strongThe Color Purple is a parody of the tradition of the "slave narrative"--stories written by male and female former slaves about their experiences under slavery.
As you can see the book can be read on several levels (we studied not only the feminist angle but also the issue of the Blacks, slavery and the attitude towards Africans) and I strongly recommend it. It's a MUST READ, and if possible try and see the movie as well, but the book is infinitely better than the movie (but obviously!)