Alice Walker’s 1986 short work Am I Blue is a poignant and thought-provoking story which, at surface level, details a woman’s friendship with a horse she names Blue, while, on a deeper level, follows in the footsteps of Walker’s other works and plays easel to a canvas upon which the author paints a bleak yet principled portrait of society’s problems through the eyes of perhaps two of its most battered victims; the woman and the helpless animal. Here we have the powerful image of a trapped and neglected horse, an image that moves the narrator greatly; an utterly relatable metaphor that has her approaching the increasingly forlorn creature and striking a deep, humane connection with it.
Throughout the text, Walker expertly utilises the increasingly profound relationship between the narrator and Blue to convey a sense of gentleness and a state of kindred serenity between animal and the female being, almost as though theirs is a bond built upon mutual understandings of a neglect and indifference they have both tasted. Through a series of humanizing rendezvous’ between woman and horse, Walker not only cultivates a reader-sympathy borne out of an incredible amount of genuine emoting from Blue, who we explicitly learn can experience happiness and pain and longing, but also expertly crafts a stage where she voices her pro-vegan, anti-cruelty stance with highly persuading language and impact. Through this, Walker once again reinforces her message that while humans have the capacity for great kindness, they also have the capacity for great greed and indifference, a cruelty that not only leads the ‘undesirables’ of their own species into a great suffering, but every other species on the planet, too. Walker goes as far as to draw comparisons to white settlers massacring and dehumanizing Native Americans, the treatment of slaves in pre and post Civil War America and the ongoing treatment of women throughout history and the present. Walker expounds on these incidents, delicately weaving them into the symbolic fabric of the relationship between Blue and the narrator, a relationship that is constructed from the base up to serve as a tangible example of the conceited selfishness and indifferent cruelty of the patriarchy of society endemic world-over.
But, as I’ve hinted above, such incredibly moral and ethical stances are to be expected from Walker, who is a long-time activist for animal rights, as well as women’s rights, and a dedicated vegan. Walker, one of the most acclaimed African American female authors, won the Pulitzer Prize for The Colour Purple, the ground-breaking novel detailing the horrific abuse suffered by Southern black women, which also happens to be a personal favourite of mine. Her work centres around themes of struggle and adversity; focussing on Civil Rights, the treatment and experiences of African Americans both past and present, and also the experiences of women and often, symbolically, animals, as a subjugated and oppressed minority.
This review was intended to serve as a taster for our upcoming Story Café Special: Sister Creatures, coming this Thursday 12th October from 12:30-2:30pm, where where feminist animal studies researcher Rebecca Jones will showcase a range of poetry, short stories and essays by women who have chosen to share their experiences of animals and the natural world through their creative writing, all the while indulging in cakes, snacks and hot tea and coffee to heat up your bones from the increasingly chilly and showery Autumn weather!
This event is women only, 18+ and will cost £2, however we offer subsidised free places for students, people on a low income, unemployed or those in receipt of benefit and Friends of GWL. To book, visit our website or pop into the Library to reserve your spot!