Possessing the Secret of Joy

Front Cover
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1992 - Fiction - 286 pages
9 Reviews
"Possessing the Secret of Joy" is the story of Tashi, a tribal African woman who lives much of her adult life in North America. As a young woman, a misguided loyalty to the customs of her people led her to voluntarily submit to the tsunga's knife and be genitally mutilated (pharoanoically circumcised). Severely traumatized by this experience, she spends the rest of her life battling madness, trying desperately through psychotherapy - she is treated by disciples of both Freud and C.G. Jung, and even by Jung himself - to regain the ability to recognize her own reality and to feel.

It is only with the help of the most unlikely ally she can imagine that she begins to study the mythological "reasons" invented by her ancient ancestors for what was done to her and to millions of other women and girls over thousands of years. As her understanding grows, so does her capacity to encounter her overwhelming grief. Underneath this grief is her glowing anger. Anger propels her to act. Action brings both feeling - life, the ability to exist with awareness in the moment - and death. Of which she finds she has completely lost her fear.

While not a sequel to "The Color Purple" or "The Temple of My Familiar, Possessing the Secret of Joy" follows the life of a barely glimpsed character from those books. Combining fact and fiction, communing with the spirits of the living and the dead, Alice Walker in this novel strikes with graceful power at the heart of one of the most controverial issues of our time.

From inside the book

What people are saying - Write a review

User ratings

5 stars
4 stars
3 stars
2 stars
1 star

Review: Possessing the Secret of Joy

User Review  - Caty Simon - Goodreads

I loved this book when I was 14. Good introduction to the issue of genital mutiliation--and the prose is spare but lyrical, the characters convincing--esp. Tashi, who proverbially "jumps off the page". Read full review

Review: Possessing the Secret of Joy

User Review  - Sukey - Goodreads

My personal lexicon contains a fistful of words that ice my soul, joy isn't one of them... clitorodectomy is. In 'Possessing...' Walker's skillful text evokes deeply disturbing images of a horrific practice. 'Joy' is in short supply. Read full review

All 9 reviews »


Section 1
Section 2
Section 3

25 other sections not shown

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

References to this book

Daughters of the Dreaming

Limited preview - 1980
All Book Search results »

About the author (1992)

Alice Walker won the Pulitzer Prize and the American Book Award for her novel The Color Purple. Her other bestselling novels include By the Light of My Father's Smile, Possessing the Secret of Joy, and The Temple of My Familiar. She is also the author of two collections of short stories, three collections of essays, five volumes of poetry, and several children's books. Her books have been translated into more than two dozen languages. Born in Eaton, Georgia, Walker now lives in Northern California.

Bibliographic information