Alice Walker

There are many different types of authors in the world of
literature, authors of horror, romance, suspense, and the type that
Alice Walker writes, through personal experiences. Although most
critics categorize her writings as feminist, Walker describes herself
as a “womanist”, she defines this as “a woman who loves other
woman…Appreciates and prefers woman culture, woman’s emotional
flexibility… and woman’s strength… Loves the spirit… Loves
herself, Regardless”. Walker’s thoughts and feelings show through in
her writing of poetry and novels. Alice Walker writes through her
feelings and the morals that she has grown with, she writes about the
black woman’s struggle for spiritual wholeness and sexual, political,
and racial equality.

Much of Walker’s fiction is informed by her Southern background.
She was born in Eatonton, Georgia, a rural town where most blacks
worked as tenant farmers. At the age eight she was blinded in the
right eye when an older brother accidentally shot her with a BB gun,
after which she fell into somewhat of a depression. She secluded
herself from the other children, and as she explained, “I no longer
felt like the little girl I was. I felt old, and because I felt I was
unpleasant to look at, filled with shame. I retreated into solitude,
and read stories and began to write poems.” In 1961 Walker won a
scholarship to Spelman College in Atlanta, where she became involved
in the civil rights movement and participated in sit-ins at local
business establishments. She transferred to Sarah Lawrence College in
Bronxville, New York, graduating from there in 1965. She met her
future husband Melvyn Leventhal, a Jewish civil rights attorney, in
Mississippi where she was an activist and teacher. In 1967 Walker and
Leventhal married, becoming the first legally married interracial
couple to reside in Jackson, the state capital, they had one child
together one year after they got married, named Rebecca . They
divorced in 1976. Since then Walker has focused more on her writing
and has taught at various colleges and universities.

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Walker is one of the most prolific black women writers in
America. Her work consistently reflects her concern with racial,
sexual, and political issues-particularly with black woman’s struggle
for survival. She explained, “The black woman is one of America’s
greatest heroes.Not enough credit has been given to the black woman
who has been oppressed beyond recognition.” Walker’s insistence on
giving black women their due resulted in one of the most widely read
novels in America today, Alice’s third novel, “The Color Purple”. The
was the first book I had read by Alice Walker, the novel traces
thirty years in the life of Celie, a poor Southern black woman who is
victimized physically and emotionally by her step-father and husband.
While in her teens, Celie is repeatedly raped by her step-father, who
sells the children. Then she is placed in a loveless marriage to
Albert, who also beats and torments her continuously. She eventually
finds peace with the help of Albert’s mistress, Shug Avery, a blues
signer who gives her the courage to leave her marriage. At the end of
the novel, Celie is reunited with her children and with her long lost
sister Nettie. Walker earned many praises for the novel along with
many criticisms as well. Those who praise the book such as Peter S.
Prescott would agree with him when he said, “an American novel of
permanent importance, that rare sort of book which amounts to a
diversion in the fields of dread”. Some felt differently about
certain points the book made, one being the its negative portraits of
black men, people like Darryl Pinckney state, “Walker’s work shows a
world divided between the chosen (black women) and the unsaved, the
poor miserable critter’ (black men), between the ‘furnace of
afflication’ and a ‘far off, miystic land ofmiraculous. Walker’s
central characters are almost always black women; the themes of
sexism and racism are predominant in her work, but her impact is felt
across both racial and sexual boundaries.

The first novel written by Alice Walker “The Third Life of Grange
Copeland” (1970), again carries many of her prevalent themes,
particularly the domination of powerless women by equally powerless
men. In this novel, which spans the years between the Depression and
the beginnings of the civil rights movement in the early 1960s,
walker showed three generations of a black sharecropping family and
explored the effects of poverty and racism on their lives. Because of
his sense of failure, Grange Copeland leads his wife to suicide and
abandons his children to seek a better life in the North. His traits
are passed on to his son, Brownsfield, who in time murders his wife.
In the end of the novel, Grange returns to his family a broken yet
compassionate man and attempts to make up for all the hurt he has
caused in the past with the help of his granddaughter, Ruth. While
some people accused Walker of reviving stereotypes about the
dysfunctional black family, others praised her use of intensive,
descriptive language in creating believable characters.
Walker is also considered an accomplished poet. Walkers first
collection, Once: Poems (1968), includes works written during the
early 1960’s while she attended Sarah Lawrence College. Some of these
pieces relate the confusion, isolation , and suicidal thoughts Walker
experienced. For she had learned her Senior year that she was
pregnant and had to deal with the stressful time that followed.
Revolutionary Petunias and Other Poems was Walkers second volume of
poems, in this she addressed such topics as love, individualism, and
revolution. When Alice Walker lived in Mississippi and was active in
the civil rights movement and teaching she experienced these such
things. With Walker’s most recent poems she expresses her ideas of
races, gender, environment, love, hate and suffering, the same topics
she writes about in her novels. In addition to her novels, and
poetry, Walker has also published two volumes of short stories, In
Love and Trouble: Stories of Black Women (1973) and You Can’t Keep a
Good Woman Down: Stories (1981), both of which evidence her womanist
Overall Alice Walker has been a very influential author
throughout the black community, and her audiences are very much
interracial. Although many of the criticisms are controversial on her
view of black men and their abuse toward black women, that depiction
can not be narrowed down to only that, there is much more that is
present in Alice Walkers writing. Her feelings, morals and the
opinions Walker has towards women, sexuality, and racial equality
shine through her works of all literature.