The UnCUT/VOICES Press Collection

Waging Empathy

Alice Walker, Possessing the Secret of Joy and the Global Movement to Ban FGM

Waging Empathy
$22.00
To order, please send an email to Dr. Tobe Levin
Discounts are available.
by Tobe Levin, editor

In 1992, Pulitzer Prize-winner Alice Walker did something wonderful: she became the first author of international renown to dedicate a novel “to the blameless vulva” and thereby set an egregious abuse of girl’s and women’s rights -- female genital mutilation or FGM -- in the public spotlight. 2012 marked the twentieth anniversary of this landmark publication.  In response, UnCUT/VOICES Press issued a call for papers that resulted in this unique collection:  essays on Walker’s revolutionary book by scholars who span the globe. From Japan and China to India and Europe, Africa and the USA: four continents contribute to this praise-song for an American native daughter with international appeal.

Synopsis of Possessing the Secret of Joy

Ambivalence and complicity dominate the plot of this first anti-FGM novel by a world-renowned author, Alice Walker. Set in a fictive African village and told in the first person-voices of each character, the main figure, Tashi, a teenager who had been spared FGM by her Christianized parents, CHOOSES to undergo infibulation. She had been urged to do so by a Jomo Kenyatta-like leader who prizes tribal customs to oppose colonial incursions. BEFORE mutilation Tashi had been orgasmic with Adam, the missionaries’ son whom she marries and with whom she moves to the United States. But her genital wounds make her suffer for life, physically and psychologically, -- in fact, severe depression claims her and she is treated by none other than Carl Jung at his home in Bollingen! Although her husband Adam is loyal to her, he openly enjoys relationship with a French lover, Lisette, with whom he spends three weeks each year. Lisette is an outspoken feminist who rejects marriage. And they have a son, Pierre, a a feminine, wise, pan-sexual anthropologist who interests himself in Tashi’s turbulence, uncovering symbols that help explain her nightmares. TASHI’s aim in life is to unlock the secret of her recurrent anguish: it is shown to be suppression of knowledge that her sister Dura dies of FGM. Once this awareness is gained, Tashi resolves to murder the exciser. She does so, stands trial, is imprisoned, and outside the prison, a mainly silent but at times chanting demonstration of women forms. At Tashi’s execution, in the final scene, the demonstrators unfold a banner that reads RESISTANCE IS THE SECRET OF JOY.

Also available from UnCUT/VOICES Press

Undoing FGM
Undoing FGM

Pierre Foldes: The Surgeon Who Restores the Clitoris

WAAFRIKA 123. 1992. Kenya. Two womyn fall in love
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