CALL FOR PAPERS: Two Decades Later: Approaches to Teaching Alice Walker’s _Possessing the Secret of Joy_ (1992)

RENEWED CALL FOR PAPERS, new DEADLINE 30 April 2012: We now have contributions from Japan, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Romania, Uganda and the USA but the collection can grow and still appear during the twentieth anniversary year after initial publication of Walker’s pioneering novel. Contact Tobe Levin for more details or to send a proposal:

I have a grant to produce an edited volume whose working title is Two Decades Later: Approaches to Teaching Alice Walker’s Possessing the Secret of Joy (1992).

For the upcoming 20th anniversary of publication, in the absence of any collection devoted to teaching Walker’s Possessing the Secret of Joy, and in light of the ethical challenge of dealing with female genital mutilation – the main theme –, I invite you to submit a chapter if you have classroom experience with this book, face-to-face or distance ed., or — even if not –, you can envision presenting it to a group of students. What pedagogical aims have influenced/might influence your presentations? How have students — or you as a student — responded to the topic of the narrative? What links have been made to civil society efforts to end the excision of girls? Walker’s novel, when published in 1992, met criticism not so much for its art as for its politics: the topic was still too embarrassing for many scholars, especially a few articulate women from Africa residing in the USA who feared that public discussion of the practice would play into racist hands. Twenty years later, I would like to see whether increasing attention to the issue has changed (or not) pedagogical and critical approaches. I hypothesize a renaissance for the dramatic story that holds a reader’s interest to the end while allowing no misunderstanding of its extra-textual aim — to end FGM. In my classes over the years, when asked to name their favorite selection in a course on African American Authors, students have often said that Possessing the Secret of Joy changed their lives. (As the issue certainly changed mine: an activist since 1977, I bring my own wealth of background and experience to teaching it.)

NEW deadline for submissions: 30 April 2011, to be published by UnCUT/VOICES Press … and
Submission details from Tobe Levin, or


One response to “CALL FOR PAPERS: Two Decades Later: Approaches to Teaching Alice Walker’s _Possessing the Secret of Joy_ (1992)

  1. Hi Tobe,

    Although I am not an educator, I am a literary scholar and have recently finished reading Possessing the Secret of Joy. I just posted my reflections in a new post titled “Blaming Our Mothers” ( I know it may not find a place in your publication as it does not necessarily focus on genital mutilation, but I have been looking for others’ reflections and scholarly works on the book and came across your invitation for submissions. I wish you success, and cannot wait for the book.


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