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Alice Walker

(1944-), American

Biography

Born in rural Eatonton, Georgia, in 1944, Alice Walker was the youngest of eight children. When she was eight years old, she was blinded in one eye by a BB shot by one of her brothers. She endured years of teasing and low self-esteem throughout childhood, but nonetheless graduated as valedictorian of her high school. She received a scholarship to Spelman College, a historically Black college in Georgia. When she left home, her mother, Minnie, gave her three things: a sewing machine to encourage self-sufficiency; a suitcase to nudge her curious spirit; and a typewriter to nurture her budding writing talents. Walker transferred from Spelman to Sarah Lawrence College in New York. She graduated in 1965.

Walker is a prolific writer, working in a variety of genres including children’s literature, poetry, nonfiction, and screenwriting. She is best known for her novels and short stories, in which she gives voice to a doubly oppressed group: African American women. The Color Purple (1982) is perhaps her most well-known novel, winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1983 and inspiring a film adaptation.

A tireless crusader on behalf of women, Walker writes fiction that often speaks out against domestic violence, sexual abuse, racism, and female genital mutilation. Shying away from the term “feminist,” Walker has called herself a “womanist,” committed to freeing women from all forms of oppression. Walker’s fiction has been the subject of controversy for her harsh depictions of men and certain cultural practices (such as female genital mutilation, the subject of Possessing the Secret of Joy).

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SparkNotes

Alice Walker Quotes

The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for whites or women for men.

Activism is the rent I pay for living on the planet.

The harm that you do to others is the harm that you do to yourself and you cannot think then that you can cause wars in other parts of the world and destroy people and drone them without this having a terrible impact on your own soul and your own consciousness.

I think unless the people are given information about what is happening to them, they will die in ignorance. And i think that's the big sin. I mean if there is such a thing as a sin, that's it, to destroy people and not have them have a clue about how this is happening.

You better not never tell nobody but God.

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Novels and Short Stories

  • The Third Life of Grange Copeland

    (1970)

  • In Love and Trouble: Stories of Black Women

    (includes "Everyday Use")

  • Meridian

    (1976)

  • The Color Purple

    (1982)

  • The Temple of My Familiar

    (1989)

  • Possessing the Secret of Joy

    (1992)

  • Now Is the Time to Open Your Heart

    (2004)

Non-fiction

  • In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: Womanist Prose

    (1983)

  • Warrior Marks

    (1993)

Essays

  • "Beauty: When the Other Dancer is the Self"

    (1983)