Alice Walker


Best known for her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Color Purple, Alice Walker portrays black women struggling for sexual as well as racial equality and emerging as strong, creative individuals. Walker was born on February 9, 1944, in Eatonton, Georgia, the eighth child of Willie Lee and Minnie Grant Walker. When Walker was eight, her right eye was injured by one of her brothers, resulting in permanent damage to her eye and facial disfigurement that isolated her as a child. This is where her feminine point of view first emerged in a household where girls were forced to do the domestic chores unaided by the brothers. Throughout her writing career, Alice Walker has been involved in the black movement and displays strong feelings towards the respect black women get.
In 1961, Walker entered Spelman College, where she joined the Civil Rights Movement. Two years after graduating in 1965, she married Melvyn Leventhal, a Jewish civil rights lawyer; afterward, they worked together in Mississippi, registering blacks to vote. In the summer of 1968, she went to Mississippi to be in the heart of the civil-rights movement, helping people who had been thrown off farms or taken off welfare roles for registering to vote. In New York, she worked as an editor at Ms. Magazine, and her husband worked for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
In 1970, Walker published her first novel, The Third Life of Grange Copeland, about the ravages of racism on a black sharecropping family. In Meridian, 1976, her second novel, she explored a woman?s successful efforts to find her place in the Civil Rights Movement. She read much of Flannery O?Conner's work and greatly admired her.
For one thing, O?Conner practiced economy. According to Herbert Mitgang of the New York Times, "She also knew that the question of race was really just the first question on a long list"(1983).
Much of Walker?s writings are very personal. For example, one of her first books once was written during a time in which she was pregnant and suicidal and it described how she had an abortion and dealt with all of its after effects. Unlike many other authors, she is not afraid to write about very personal experiences she has had. Since the beginning of her writing career, she has written sixteen books, including five novels, several collections of essays, short stories, children?s books, and poems. Charles Truehearth of The Washington Post writes, "She has discussed such topics as spousal abuse, fear of death, female sexuality, and incest"(1991).
Walker is very much of a feminist, which is demonstrated by the previous quote. According to David Bradley of The New York Times, "She coined the term "womanist" which she used to describe the Black women?s issues that are at the heart of so much of her work"(1984). One of the major themes that she had incorporated within several of her writings was the difference between black and white authors, along with the Women?s Movement. She contemplated the fact that black women had been suppressed for so long that they would never know what kind of great artists they may have lost during all the times while there was slavery.
This is what the short story "In Search of Our Mother?s Gardens" discusses. The title has a special meaning because Walker is referring to her own mother. In this work, she discusses all the talents of older black women writers such as Phyllis Wheatley and Zora Neal Hurston. What she is referring to in the title is her own mother?s talent in art and gardening. She talks about how well known her mother was for her gardening skills that even strangers would stop and admire her handiwork. She points out the fact that it was so beautiful that her childhood, which was filled with poverty and sadness, was made a little more bearable because of it. When she thinks back on it, all she remembers is the beautiful neighborhood, and has a talent for bringing beauty to the forefront. The fact is though she was never given the opportunity to explore it like she may have been had she been a white woman in America.
Walker expresses her view on women in the following way: Exquisite butterflies trapped in an evil honey, toiling away their lives in an era, a century, that did not acknowledge them, except as the ?mule of the world.?