In Possessing the Secret of Joy, Alice Walker has written a heart- wrenching book about Tashi, an African-American woman who, out of a sense of loyalty to her Olinkan heritage, submitted as a young girl to the female initiation ceremony. This act of genital mutilation is still performed on young girls in various parts of the world today.
Walker uses the voices of six people to give the reader deep insight into Tashi, a feisty, loving child who becomes a disillusioned, frustrated, and angry woman. The reader journeys with her through bouts of madness until she emerges as a serene, white-haired woman who faces execution with great dignity.
Walker's Tashi first focuses her frustration and anger on Western influences that have left her people, who were once "whole and pregnant with life," stripped of everything but their black skin. Her act of resistance to this form of oppression catapults her into even more profound anger and a rage that leads her to a truth which almost shatters her spirit. Tashi perceives the betrayal of women by their own people and gender and by the silence that surrounds, and thus increases, that betrayal.
TASHI IS an alluring character from the moment she appears as a child clinging tearfully to her mother's skirt, to the final execution scene. But Possessing the Secret of Joy isn't just the story of one woman; it speaks for all women who have erroneously submitted, either "freely" or through force, to physical, psychological, and/or emotional violence. The power of this violence is eventually overcome by the strengthening and sustaining power of relationship and by the therapeutic value of art in the inner healing process.