I picked this book up a few days ago and finished it Friday afternoon. A quick and dynamic read– Meridian offers lyrical prose and lots of details to keep a reader moving. Meridian Hills is a revolutionary who is literally giving her body and spirit to the fight. The book ebbs between time periods– opening with her and a group of kids taking on a tank, to her helping a couple through the loss of their young child who was murdered. Sexuality is another focal point of the story and is woven into conversations about race and sex, as well as gender. A white woman, Lynne, who is married to Truman (a main character of the novel) who is black, is raped by his best friend Tommy. Tommy argues to his black friends that raping Lynne is taking what they have earned, since white men have raped black women for ages. Simultaneously, Lynne is little heard or believed by anyone about her rape. This is one of many conversations that Walker so clearly portrays that touches on power– this book is fitting for the politics of 2020.
One of the tangents in this book that is especially memorable comes early on in a chapter called Sojourner. Sojourner is a magnolia tree on the Saxon College campus where Meridian attends and is her favorite spot on campus. The story goes that a woman slave named Louvinie would tell stories to children on the plantation where she lived and one of the children had a heart condition and upon hearing one of her frightening tales, had a heart attack and died. Part of her story was found written down and upon this discovery, her tongue was cut out at the root. She planted it beneath the young magnolia, which grew larger than any other around. It was said that this tree was magical in that slaves would disappear among the branches and were never discovered hiding there.
The story of Meridian is tragic and truthful. Alice Walker is a voice that we can continue to return to and find a-ha moments with. This novel is from 1975 but feels all too familiar in terms of the racial inequities that are visible in the United States. Meridian is a tough protagonist who carries on in the end, against physical and mental odds– on her own. Meridian is an inspiration to any person who is fighting for justice full throttle or is hoping to try.