Virtual Event: Salamishah Tillet


In Search of The Color Purple:
The Story of an American Masterpiece

in conversation with RÉGINE JEAN-CHARLES


March 1, 2021
7:00 PM ET


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Free - $5 contribution suggested at registration

Harvard Book Store's virtual event series welcomes SALAMISHAH TILLET—renowned writer, activist, and professor of African American Studies and Creative Writing at Rutgers University–Newark—for a discussion of her latest book, In Search of the Color Purple: The Story of Alice Walker’s Masterpiece. She will be joined in conversation by RÉGINE JEAN-CHARLES, associate professor of French and African and African Diaspora Studies at Boston College.

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About In Search of the Color Purple

Alice Walker made history in 1982 when she became the first black woman to win the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for The Color Purple. Published in the Reagan era amid a severe backlash to civil rights, the Jazz Age novel tells the story of racial and gender inequality through the life of a 14-year-old girl from Georgia who is haunted by domestic and sexual violence.

Prominent academic and activist Salamishah Tillet combines cultural criticism, history, and memoir to explore Walker’s epistolary novel and shows how it has influenced and been informed by the zeitgeist. The Color Purple received both praise and criticism upon publication, and the conversation it sparked around race and gender still continues today. It has been adapted for an Oscar-nominated film and a hit Broadway musical.

Through archival research and interviews with Walker, Oprah Winfrey, and Quincy Jones (among others), Tillet studies Walker’s life and how themes of violence emerged in her earlier work. Reading The Color Purple at age 15 was a groundbreaking experience for Tillet. It continues to resonate with her—as a sexual violence survivor, as a teacher of the novel, and as an accomplished academic.

Provocative and personal, In Search of The Color Purple is a bold work from an important public intellectual, and captures Alice Walker’s seminal role in rethinking sexuality, intersectional feminism, and racial and gender politics.

Praise for In Search of the Color Purple

“Salamishah does what only great writers of literary criticism accomplish—she tells a story about a masterpiece without forgetting the extraordinary woman who crafted it and the legions of women made whole because of her work. A bold and vital tale that rightly treats Alice Walker’s American classic as if it were a living, breathing being demanding our utmost attention and enduring affection.” —Janet Mock, author of Redefining Realness and Surpassing Certainty

“We need reminders of the stories that have brought us over, the hymns and spirituals and freedom songs our people sang. The Color Purple is such a hymn. Alice Walker is its composer. And Salamishah Tillet, our conductor, lines this hymn for us, beautifully, so that we might all show up, text in hand, and sing its chorus, in tribute to the genius, care, and love of Alice Walker.” —Brittney Cooper, author of Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower

“One of my most cherished possessions is a copy of The Color Purple, signed by Alice Walker and dated October 22, 1991. In case of fire, I keep it near my family photos to make sure it is not left behind. In Search of The Color Purple delivers extraordinary insight into both the love and the struggle that made Ms. Walker’s exquisitely crafted novel a masterpiece. After reading Salamishah Tillet’s poignant book, neither readers nor writers will forget that it takes courage and audacity to write a novel that tells the reality of women’s lives.” —Anita Hill

Régine Jean-Charles
Régine Jean-Charles

Régine Jean-Charles

Dr. Régine Michelle Jean-Charles is a feminist literary scholar and activist who has been working on issues surrounding rape culture for the past 20 years. She is currently Associate Professor of French and African and African Diaspora Studies at Boston College. Her first book, Conflict Bodies: The Politics of Rape Representation in the Francophone Imaginary examines theoretical, visual, and literary texts in order to challenge the dominant views of sexual violence. Her second academic book Looking for Other Worlds: Black Feminism, Literary Ethics, and Haitian Fiction is currently under contract with University of Virginia Press. Her book A Trumpet of Conscience for the 21st Century: King’s Call to Justice is forthcoming with Orbis Press in 2021.

Salamishah Tillet
Salamishah Tillet

Salamishah Tillet

Salamishah Tillet is a scholar, cultural critic, and activist. A professor at Rutgers University–Newark and previously a professor of English and Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, she is a contributing critic-at-large for the New York Times. With her sister, she cofounded A Long Walk Home, a Chicago-based national nonprofit that uses art to empower young people to end violence against girls and women. She lives in New Jersey.


Join our online event (or pre-register) via the link in the event description.
Event Series: Virtual Event Series

Harvard Book Store’s award-winning event series continues online! Named "Best of Boston: 2020 Best Virtual Author Series" and "2021 Best Virtual Author Series" by Boston magazine.

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