Study Guide

You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down Race

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Where race is concerned, the fictional world of You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down is not so fictional. Alice Walker writes from the perspective of experience with segregation—and from being on the front lines of the Civil Rights Movement. In her stories, she gives us a glimpse into the reality women of color face in the United States as they try to live their lives and find fulfillment.

As Anastasia puts it, though, race is always an issue. She says the topic is "boring" and gives her no "joy"—so she opts out of her Black identity and starts a new life. That's not an option for the other characters here. Instead, they have to confront the constant threat of violence and the presence of institutionalized racism, both of which poison even their most intimate relationships.

These also have to face microaggressions from their supposed allies. They deal with the scars that they carry from family memories of slavery, and they deal with constant reminders that they were considered separate and never equal (we're looking at you, Jim Crow).

But some of Walker's characters do rise, confident in their talent and beauty. Some struggle their way to a peaceful life. And others just want to get on with their, um, "adventures." The moral of the story: you can't keep a good woman down.

Questions About Race

  1. How does race define friendship in this work?
  2. What does Anastasia mean when she says she's "bored with color being the problem" (Source.110)?
  3. How does pornography contribute to the oppression of Black women, according to Walker?
  4. What role does race play in "Laurel"? Make sure you consider something in addition to the backdrop of segregation in the South.

Chew on This

Walker challenges her characters—not just her readers—to think about their preconceived ideas of race.

Walker believes that interracial friendships have no chance of success until we live in a perfectly just society.

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