Meridian by Alice Walker

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This is an excerpt from the book Meridian by Alice Walker.

She could never forgive her community, her family, his family, the whole world, for not warning her against children. For a year she had seen some increase in her happiness: She enjoyed joining her body to her husband’s in sex, and enjoyed having someone with whom to share the minute occurrences of her day. But in her first pregnancy she became distracted from who she was. As divided in her mind as her body was divided, between what part was herself and what part was not. Her frail independence gave way to the pressures of motherhood and she learned – much to her horror and amazement – that she was not even allowed to be resentful that she was “caught.” That her personal life was over. There was no one she could cry out to and say “It’s not fair!” And in understanding this, she understood a look she saw in the other women’s eyes. The mysterious inner life that she had imagined gave them a secret joy was simply a full knowledge of the fact that they were dead, living just enough for their children. They, too, had found no one to whom to shout “It’s not fair!” The women who now had eight, twelve, fifteen children: People made jokes about them, but she could feel now that such jokes were obscene; it was like laughing at a person who is being buried alive, walled away from her own life, brick by brick.

That was the beginning of her abstraction. When her children were older and not so burdensome – and they were burdens to her always – she wanted to teach again but could not pass the new exams and did not like the new generation of students. In fact, she discovered she had no interest in children, until they were adults; then she would pretend to those she met that she remembered them. She learned to make paper flowers and prayer pillows from tiny scraps of cloth, because she needed to feel something in her hands. She never learned to cook well, she never learned to braid hair prettily or to be in any other way creative in her home. She could have done so, if she had wanted to. Creativity was in her, but it was refused expression. It was all deliberate. A war against those to whom she could not express her anger or shout, “It’s not fair!”

With her own daughter she certainly said things she herself did not believe. She refused help and seemed, to Meridian, never to understand. But all along she understood perfectly.

It was for stealing her mother’s serenity, for shattering her mother’s emerging self, that Meridian felt guilty from the very first, though she was unable to understand how this could possibly be her fault.

When her mother asked, without glancing at her, “Have you stolen anything?” a stillness fell over Meridian and for seconds she could not move. The question literally stopped her in her tracks.

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Meridian – Summary

Here is the book summary from Goodreads:

“The second novel written by Alice Walker, preceding The Color Purple is a heartfelt and moving story about one woman’s personal revolution as she joins the Civil Rights Movement. Set in the American South in the 1960s it follows Meridian Hill, a courageous young woman who dedicates herself heart and soul to her civil rights work, touching the lives of those around her even as her own health begins to deteriorate. Hers is a lonely battle, but it is one she will not abandon, whatever the costs. This is classic Alice Walker, beautifully written, intense and passionate.”

Copyright © 1976 by Alice Walker.

More details can be found on Goodreads and on StoryGraph.

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