Born in Eatonton Georgia, on February 9th, 1944, Alice Malsenior Walker was the eighth of eight children to Minnie Tallulah Grant Walker and Winnie Lee Walker. After a childhood accident involving a BB gun -and her brother- left her blinded in her right eye, Walker never fully recovered her sight and from then on, became very secluded and reserved, finding solace in writing poetry, short stories. Going on to become valedictorian of her high school, she attended Spelman and Sarah Lawrence College on scholarships, graduating in 1965 -when she left, her mother gave her three “going away presents”: a suitcase for traveling the world, a typewriter for creativity, and a sewing machine for self-sufficiency.
Volunteering in the voter registration drives of the 1960s in Georgia, Walker went to work after college in the Welfare Department in New York City. Marrying in 1967 she divorced in 1976; her first book of poems came out in 1968 and her first novel coming to print just after her daughter's birth in 1970. In early poems, novels and short stories walker dealt with themes familiar to readers of her later works: rape, violence, isolation, troubled relationships, multi-generational perspectives, sexism and racism.
When her groundbreaking novel, The Color Purple came out in 1982, an even wider audience became exposed to Walker’s work. Her Pulitzer Prize and the movie made from her book, directed by Steven Spielberg brought both fame and controversy. She was widely criticized for negative portrayals of Black men in The Color Purple, though many critics admitted that the movie presented more simplistic negative pictures than the book's more intricate characterizations.
Walker also published a biography of poet, Langston Hughes, and worked to recover and publicize the nearly lost works of writer Zora Neale Hurston. In 1989 and 1992, in two books, The Temple of My Familiar and Possessing The Secret of Joy, Walker made issue of female circumcision in Africa, exposing her to further controversy-many criticized Walker as a cultural imperialist because of her unabashed “audacity” in condemning African cultures.
works are upheld as pillars of many African American cannons because of their
in-depth representation of Black life and Black women specifically. She
continues not only to write, but also to be active in environmental, feminist/
womanist causes, and issues of economic justice.
Written By Alice Walker:
Pieces And excerpts:
From Possessing the Secret of Joy
At the moment of crisis I realize that, because my hands are bound, I can not adjust my glasses, and therefore must tilt my head awkwardly in order to locate and focus on a blue hill. . . . I notice there is a blue hill rising above and just behind the women and their naked-bottomed little girls, who now stand in rows fifty feet in front of me. In front of them kneels my little band of intent faces. Mbati is unfurling a banner, quickly, before the soldiers can stop her. . . All of them--Adam, Olivia, Benny, Pierre, Raye, Mbati-- hold it firmly and stretch it wide. RESISTANCE IS THE SECRET OF JOY! it says in huge block letters. There is a roar as if the world cracked open and I flew inside. I am no more. And satisfied.
Expect nothing. Live frugally
become a stranger
To need of pity
Or, if compasssion be freely
Take only enough
Stop short of urge to plead
Then purge away the need.
Wish for nothing larger
Than your own small heart
OR greater than a star;
Tame wild disappointment
With caress unmoved and cold
Make of it a parka
For your soul.
Discover the reason why
So tiny human midget
Exists at all
So sacred unwise
But expect nothing. Live frugally
Bibliography And Works Cited
1. Pratt, Darnell, D. Meckler’s Studies and Biographies on Black Americans; 1
Westport, CT : Meckler, 1988.
2. Bloom , Harold. Alice Walker / edited and with an introduction by Harold Bloom.
Philadelphia, Pa. : Chelsea House Publishers, 2000.