ALICE WALKER by Evelyn C. White


A Life
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Authorized, immensely supportive and informative, though very premature account of the political life and times of The Color Purple author, still vibrant at age 60.

The last of numerous children in a family of Georgia sharecroppers, Alice Walker grew up amid the lingering, vicious legacy of slavery: poverty, ignorance, Jim Crow, violence, and hatred within her own family. Despite a BB-gun accident at age eight that left her blind in the right eye, Walker proved a tenacious, truth-seeking student and in 1961 secured a scholarship to Spelman College, a school for black women in Atlanta. The civil-rights movement was in full bloom, and Walker was inching restlessly into political activism and writing; she finished her BA at Sarah Lawrence under the tutelage of poet Muriel Rukeyser, who with agent Monica McCall and fellow poet Langston Hughes helped launch Walker’s first writing efforts. Marriage to a white Jewish NAACP lawyer forcibly made her personal life public, especially after they moved to Mississippi. In her poetry and novels and as an early editor of Ms. magazine, Walker continued to court controversy by confronting headlong such feminist and humanist issues of the day as black male oppression of black women and genital mutilation. White, who has written several self-help books for African-American women, is clearly a Walker disciple; having been granted numerous interviews with major players, she presents a shapely life from the outside looking in, offering thorough instruction in African-American history, writing, and politics along the way. (For example, in her stress on Walker's instrumental work in resurrecting the writing of Zora Neale Hurston.) The culmination of this account, of course, is the stunning success of The Color Purple, which in 1982 made Walker the first black woman to win the Pulitzer Prize and went on to become a major Hollywood movie directed by Steven Spielberg.

A bodacious hagiography that intelligently fills in details around the movements of early feminism, civil rights, and African-American arts.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2004
ISBN: 0-393-05891-3
Page count: 496pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 2004


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