The Color Purple is a 1982 novel by Alice Walker which received the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
The Color Purple is an epistolary novel: that is, the book is written in the form of letters. The central character is Celie, a young woman who is sexually abused by her father (who, she later discovers, is her stepfather) and is forced to marry a widower with several children, who is physically abusive towards her.
Then her husband's mistress, singer "Shug" Avery, comes into the scene. Initially, Celie feels threatened by this effervescent, liberated version of femininity - a form that has previously been alien to her.
Like "Mr. ____", Celie's husband (Albert), Shug has little respect for Celie and the life she lives at first and continues in her lover's footsteps, abusing Celie and adding to her humiliation.
In time, however, the two women bond, and Celie gradually learns what it means to become an empowered woman in her own right, through both sexual and financial emancipation and she finds the strength to leave her tyrannical husband.
This book is often argued to address many issues which are important to understanding African-American life during the early-mid 20th century. Its main theme is the position of the black woman in society, as the lowest of the low, put upon both because of her gender and her color. The book also deals with the idea of how Celie finds true emotional and physical love with Avery.
Because of the novel's sometimes explicit content it has been the frequent target of censors and appears on the American Library Association list of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-2000 at number eighteen. 
The book was adapted into a film in 1985, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Whoopi Goldberg as the central character, Celie. Though nominated for 11 Academy Awards, it did not win any. This perceived snubbing ignited some controversy because many critics considered it the best picture that year. Others were upset by the film's depiction of the black male as abusive, uncaring, and disloyal.
In December 2005, a musical adaptation of the book opened at the Broadway Theater in New York City. The show, produced by Oprah Winfrey, garnered five 2006 Outer Critics Circle Award nominations, including Outstanding Broadway Musical and Outstanding New Score. That same year, the show was nominated for eleven Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Original Score Written for the Theatre, and Best Leading Actress in a Musical (LaChanze). LaChanze did win the Tony Award, though the show itself won no other awards. LaChanze's win was attributed to the variety of roles she gained positive views for, as well as a powerful backstory. Her first husband, Calvin, a trader with Cantor, Fitzgerald, died on September 11, 2001 in the World Trade Center. LaChanze remarried in 2005 to Derek Foudjour -- they are the parents of three children. Zaya and Celia are LaChanze's daughters from her first marriage. Foudjour has a son.