Book Review: “You Can’t Keep a Good Woman Down” stories by Alice Walker

Personal Blurb-style Intro (aka “Why I picked up this book”):

I picked up this book because I loved the title, respect Alice Walker, and was in the mood for a book to make me think (which I expected from Walker). Incidentally, Alice Walker also penned “The Color Purple” which is an oft-challenged, sometimes-banned book. This post, by Insatiable Booksluts, asks us which “subversives” we’re reading as Banned Books Week was approaching (September 24 – October 1).

By the way, check out the most challenged books of 2010 and be SHOCKED to see that Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America “ made the list. I am really amazed by this and it actually frightens me that anybody could convince an institution, even a school library to BAN this book. I mean, what is the standard you have to reach to justify banning a book from an institution that exists to make books easier to access? Frankly, it blows my mind that anybody had enough power to persuade even one other person that this book should be banned. How did it come to this? I realize the list represents the most “challenged” books, as opposed to the most “banned” books, yet I am still flabbergasted. I read this book and found it a truly enlightening insight into the treacherous system of poverty in the U.S. Yes, I said “treacherous,” just like a slippery rock path alongside a plunging waterfall.

This collection of Walker’s short stories shows characters on sometimes treacherous trajectories; yet, no matter the subject matter, hints of optimism dominate this book. It is this overall feeling of optimism in the collection that supports the title choice.


The book contains fourteen short stories:

Nineteen Fifty-five

How Did I Get Away with Killing One of the Biggest Lawyers in the State?


The Lover


Coming Apart


The Abortion


Advancing Luna–and Ida B. Wells


A Letter of the Times, or Should This Sado-Masochism Be Saved?

A Sudden Trip Home in the Spring


The best way for me to summarize this collection of short stories is to extricate a steady theme that emerged as I read and contemplated each story as part of a whole. From start to finish I read stories about self-assured women who faced life with 100% certainty that terrible things would happen to them (and they did), that they could endure such events (often with grace and aplomb), and that they are as much entitled to pleasure and moments of happiness in this life as anybody else.

I enjoyed reading the stories for the quality of this theme, but I did not come away with the sense that I would return to this book time and again. The stories provide a glimpse into the development of an author and seem to be stepping stones on her path of self-discovery as a writer. You can often predict the plots and foresee the grit and determination that will be a part of the resolution. Yet, they also offer a glimpse into a different era and provided me the chance to think about how times have changed and to appreciate some of those changes. More often, the simplicity and predictability shows that traits of passion and youth transcend time, culture and technology.

Best Excerpts:

I didn’t mark many excerpts as I read along. Here are a few that stood out to me as I paged through the book after finishing the stories.

From “Nineteen Fifty-five”

“It don’t matter, Son, I say, patting his hand. You don’t even know those people. Try to make the people you know happy.” -p. 19

From “Advancing Luna–and Ida B. Wells”

“We believed we could change America because we were young and bright and held ourselves responsible for changing it. We did not believe we would fail. That is what lent fervor (revivalist fervor, in fact; we would revive America!) to our songs, and lent sweetness to our friendships (in the beginning almost all interracial), and gave a wonderful fillip to our sex (which, too, in the beginning, was almost always interracial).” -p. 86

From “Laurel”

“I was never interested in working on a newspaper, however radical. I agree with Leonard Woolf that to write against a weekly deadline deforms the brain.” -p. 105

ISBN-10: 0156997789

ISBN-13: 978-0156997782

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