Overcoming Speechlessness by Alice Walker: A Review

Overcoming Speechlessnes coverAs part of LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program, I received a copy of Alice Walker’s Overcoming Speechlessness: A poet encounters the horror in Rwanda, Eastern Congo, and Palestine/Israel, Seven Stories Press, 2010. Paperback, 75 pages.

Here is my review as posted on LibraryThing:

A short, but moving, book illustrating the power of a gentle voice speaking the truth. Using stories of her visits to Rwanda, Eastern Congo, and Palestine/Israel, Alice Walker tries to answer the question “What has happened to humanity?”

I always think I’m prepared to read yet another story about the atrocities people do to each other, but of course, I am always amazed/ashamed anew. I was impressed by the way Walker used very short vignettes to illustrate these atrocities. In fact, the whole book reads a bit like a series of postcards, giving us a glimpse into other people’s experiences while at the same time not allowing us to remain removed from our own role, historically and/or currently, in these stories.

Even more amazing was Walker’s ability to move us beyond the atrocities to see and hear the inspiring stories of the sacrifices people have made in response to injustice done to others, seemingly unlike themselves; people who are able to see beyond difference to our shared humanity.

Finally, the stories of the survivors provides the remedy for the speechlessness of the title. In the midst of “overwhelm”, there is “Nothing to do, finally, but dance.” And speak out; find a way to voice the truth. Because “allowing freedom to others brings freedom to ourselves.” (****)