Alice Walker is an American novelist and poet known for exploring the experiences of African American women. A versatile writer, Walker has written poetry, short stories, essays, novels, and children’s books, and even a film documentary.
Alice Walker is an American novelist and poet known for exploring the experiences of African American women. A versatile writer, Walker has written poetry, short stories, essays, novels, and children’s books, and even a film documentary. Her works experiment with a number of stylistic formats, including epistolary novels, changing points of view, internal monologue, and free verse poetry.
Born in 1944, Walker grew up in a family of Georgian sharecroppers. As a child, she witnessed firsthand the struggles of African American tenant farmers in the South. At eight, Walker suffered a BB gun shot which disfigured her right eye and partially blinded her. Her self-consciousness about this impairment caused her to withdraw into a world of observation and writing. She pursued her literary passion in college and wrote her first book of poetry, Once, in her senior year at Lawrence University. After college, she participated in the Civil Rights Movement and displayed an interest in political activism, a concern evident in much of her writing.
Walker was launched into the public eye with the 1982 publication of her third novel, The Color Purple. Like much of her writing, the novel explores a black woman’s quest for emotional and sexual freedom from a male-dominated existence. The Color Purple received positive reviews and was adapted into a Steven Spielberg film and later a Broadway musical. This publicity brought an increased interest in her other works and earned her a spot among the literary greats of the 20th and 21st century. Her particular focus aligned well with the multicultural emphasis of the Contemporary literary landscape. As a result, selections from her short stories and poems, including “Everyday Use” and “The Flowers”, have become common reading in American classrooms.
Walker describes herself as a “Womanist”, a term she invented to describe her philosophical approach to gender. Womanism reflects an appreciation and preference for female company, emotions, and culture. It specifically praises females’ emotional strength, but works for unity among all people, male and female. In In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Prose, Walker writes that “Womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender.” Through her writing and activism, Walker has worked to share her vision of feminism across the globe. She has used her literary voice to fight for political, sexual, and racial equality.
”The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”
“Watching you hold your hatred for such a long time I wonder: Isn’t it slippery? Might you not someday drop it on yourself? I wonder: Where does it sleep if ever? And where do you deposit it while you feed your children or sit in the lap of the one who cherishes you? There is no graceful way to carry hatred. While hidden it is everywhere.”
”Look closely at the present you are constructing; it should look like the future you are dreaming.”