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Member # 8318
(February 9, 1944 - )
Alice Walker, best known perhaps as the author of The Color Purple, was the eighth child of Georgia sharecroppers. After a childhood accident blinded her in one eye, she went on to become valedictorian of her local school, and attend Spelman College and Sarah Lawrence College on scholarships, graduating in 1965.
She volunteered in the voter registration drives of the 1960s in Georgia, and went to work after college in the Welfare Department in New York City.
She married in 1967 (and divorced in 1976); her first book of poems came out in 1968 and her first novel just after her daughter's birth in 1970.
Her early poems, novels and short stories dealt with themes familiar to readers of her later works: rape, violence, isolation, troubled relationships, multi-generational perspectives, sexism and racism.
When The Color Purple came out in 1982, Walker became known to an even wider audience. Her Pulitzer Prize and the movie by Steven Spielberg brought both fame and controversy. She was widely criticized for negative portrayals of men in The Color Purple, though many critics "Womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender."
-- Alice Walker
admitted that the movie presented more simplistic negative pictures than the book's more nuanced portrayals.
Walker also published a biography of the poet, Langston Hughes, and worked to recover and publicize the nearly-lost works of writer Zora Neale Hurston. She's credited with introducing the word "womanist" for African American feminism.
In 1989 and 1992, in two books, The Temple of My Familiar and Possessing the Secret of Joy, Walker took on the issue of female circumcision in Africa, which brought further controversy: was Walker a cultural imperialist to criticize a different culture?
Her works are known for their portrayals of the African American woman's life. She depicts vividly the sexism, racism and poverty that make that life often a struggle. But she also portrays as part of that life, the strengths of family, community, self-worth, and spirituality.
Many of her novels depict women in other periods of history than our own. Just as with non-fiction women's history writing, such portrayals give a sense of the differences and similarities of women's condition today and in that other time.
She continues not only to write, but to be active in environmental, feminist/womanist causes, and issues of economic justice.
When I think of Alice Walker and her influence in the arts, I am reminded how Lorraine Hansberry changed American literature.
[ March 31, 2006, 06:17 AM: Message edited by: PmB ]