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Alice Walker

Date of birth : 1944-02-09
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Eatonton, Georgia, United States
Nationality : American
Category : Arts and Entertainment
Last modified : 2010-07-09

Alice Walker, also known as: Alice Malsenior Walker, born February 9, 1944 in Eatonton, Georgia, United States is an American fiction and non-fiction writer.

"Sidelights"

Alice Walker "is one of the country's best-selling writers of literary fiction," according to Renee Tawa writing in the Los Angeles Times. "More than ten million copies of her books are in print." Walker has become a focal spokesperson and symbol for black feminism and has earned critical and popular acclaim as a major American novelist and intellectual. Her literary reputation was secured with her Pulitzer Prize-winning third novel, The Color Purple, which was transformed into a popular film by Steven Spielberg. Upon the release of the novel in 1982, critics sensed that Walker had created something special. " The Color Purple ... could be the kind of popular and literary event that transforms an intense reputation into a national one," according to Gloria Steinem of Ms. Judging from the critical enthusiasm for The Color Purple, Steinem's words have proved prophetic. Walker "has succeeded," Andrea Ford noted in the Detroit Free Press, "in creating a jewel of a novel." Peter S. Prescott presented a similar opinion in a Newsweek review. "I want to say," he commented, "that The Color Purple is an American novel of permanent importance, that rare sort of book which (in Norman Mailer's felicitous phrase) amounts to 'a diversion in the fields of dread.'"

Jeanne Fox-Alston and Mel Watkins both felt that the appeal of The Color Purple is that the novel, as a synthesis of characters and themes found in Walker's earlier works, brings together the best of the author's literary production in one volume. Fox-Alston, in Chicago's Tribune Books, remarked: "Celie, the main character in Walker's third ... novel, The Color Purple, is an amalgam of all those women [from Walker's previous books]; she embodies both their desperation and, later, their faith." Watkins stated in the New York Times Book Review: "Her previous books ... have elicited praise for Miss Walker as a lavishly gifted writer. The Color Purple, while easily satisfying that claim, brings into sharper focus many of the diverse themes that threaded their way through her past work."

Walker was born in Eatonton, Georgia, a southern town where most African Americans toiled at the difficult job of tenant farming. Her writing reflects these roots, where black vernacular was prominent and the stamp of slavery and oppression were still present. When she was eight, Walker was accidentally shot in the eye by a brother playing with his BB gun. Her parents, who were too poor to afford a car, could not take her to a doctor for several days. By that time, her wound was so bad that she had lost the use of her right eye. This handicap eventually aided her writer's voice, because she withdrew from others and became a meticulous observer of human relationships and interaction.

An excellent student, Walker was awarded a scholarship to Spelman College in 1961. The civil rights movement attracted her, and she became an activist. In 1963, she decided to continue her education at Sarah Lawrence College in New York, where she began to work seriously on writing poems, publishing several in a college journal. After graduation, she moved to Mississippi to teach and continue her social activism, and she met and married Melvyn Leventhal, a Jewish civil rights lawyer. The two became the only legally married interracial couple living in Jackson, Mississippi. After their divorce in 1976, Walker's literary output increased.

Walker coined the term "Womanist" to describe her philosophical stance on the issue of gender. As a Womanist, which is different from a feminist, she sees herself as someone who appreciates women's culture, emotions, and character. Her work often reflects this stance, and, paradoxically, the universality of human experience. Walker's central characters are almost always black women; Walker, according to Steinem, "comes at universality through the path of an American black woman's experience. ... She speaks the female experience more powerfully for being able to pursue it across boundaries of race and class." This universality was also noted by Fox-Alston, who remarked that Walker has a "reputation as a provocative writer who writes about blacks in particular, but all humanity in general."

However, many critics recognize a particularly black and female focus in Walker's writings. For example, in her review of The Color Purple, Ford suggested that the novel transcends "culture and gender" lines but also refers to Walker's "unabashedly feminist viewpoint" and the novel's "black ... texture." Walker does not deny this dual bias; the task of revealing the condition of the black woman is particularly important to her. Thadious M. Davis, in his Dictionary of Literary Biography essay, commented: "Walker writes best of the social and personal drama in the lives of familiar people who struggle for survival of self in hostile environments. She has expressed a special concern with exploring the oppressions, the insanities, the loyalties and the triumph of black women."

Walker's earlier books--novels, volumes of short stories, and poems--have not received the same degree of attention, but neither have they been ignored. Gloria Steinem pointed out that Meridian, Walker's second novel, "is often cited as the best novel of the civil rights movement, and is taught as part of some American history as well as literature courses." In Everyday Use, Barbara Christian found the title story, first published in Walker's collection In Love and Trouble: Stories of Black Women, to be "pivotal" to all of Walker's work in its evocation of black sisterhood and black women's heritage of quilting. William Peden, writing in The American Short Story: Continuity and Change, 1940-1975, called this same collection "a remarkable book." David Guy's commentary on The Color Purple in the Washington Post Book World included this evaluation: "Accepting themselves for what they are, the women [in the novel] are able to extricate themselves from oppression; they leave their men, find useful work to support themselves." Watkins further explained: "In The Color Purple the role of male domination in the frustration of black women's struggle for independence is clearly the focus."

Some reviewers have criticized Walker's fiction for portraying an overly negative view of black men. Katha Pollitt, for example, in the New York Times Book Review, called the stories in You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down "too partisan." The critic added: "The black woman is always the most sympathetic character." Guy noted: "Some readers ... will object to her overall perspective. Men in [ The Color Purple] are generally pathetic, weak and stupid, when they are not heartlessly cruel, and the white race is universally bumbling and inept." Charles Larson, in his Detroit News review of The Color Purple, pointed out: "I wouldn't go as far as to say that all the male characters [in the novel] are villains, but the truth is fairly close to that." However, neither Guy nor Larson felt that this emphasis on women is a major fault in the novel. Guy, for example, while conceding that "white men ... are invisible in Celie's world," observed: "This really is Celie's perspective, however--it is psychologically accurate to her--and Alice Walker might argue that it is only a neat inversion of the view that has prevailed in western culture for centuries." Larson also noted that by the end of the novel, "several of [Walker's] masculine characters have reformed."

This idea of reformation, this sense of hope even in despair, is at the core of Walker's vision. In spite of the brutal effects of sexism and racism suffered by the characters of her short stories and novels, critics note what Art Seidenbaum, writing in the Los Angeles Times, called Walker's sense of "affirmation ... [that] overcomes her anger." This is particularly evident in The Color Purple, according to several reviewers. Ford, for example, asserted that the author's "polemics on ... political and economic issues finally give way to what can only be described as a joyful celebration of human spirit--exulting, uplifting and eminently universal." Prescott discovered a similar progression in the novel. He wrote: "[Walker's] story begins at about the point that most Greek tragedies reserve for the climax, then ... by immeasurable small steps ... works its way toward acceptance, serenity and joy."

Davis referred to this idea as Walker's "vision of survival" and offered a summary of its significance in Walker's work. "At whatever cost, human beings have the capacity to live in spiritual health and beauty; they may be poor, black, and uneducated, but their inner selves can blossom." This vision, extended to all humanity, is evident in Walker's collection Living by the Word: Selected Writings, 1973-1987. Although "her original interests centered on black women, and especially on the ways they were abused or underrated," New York Times Book Review contributor Noel Perrin believed that "now those interests encompass all creation." Judith Paterson similarly observed in Tribune Books that in Living by the Word, "Walker casts her abiding obsession with the oneness of the universe in a question: Do creativity, love and spiritual wholeness still have a chance of winning the human heart amid political forces bent on destroying the universe with poisonous chemicals and nuclear weapons?" Walker explores this question through journal entries and essays that deal with Native Americans, racism in China, a lonely horse, smoking, and response to the criticism leveled against both the novel and the film version of The Color Purple. Many of these treatments are personal in approach, and Jill Nelson found many of them trivial. Writing in the Washington Post Book World, Nelson commented: "Living by the Word is fraught with ... reaches for commonality, analogy and universality. Most of the time all Walker achieves is banality." Offering a different perspective, Derrick Bell noted in his Los Angeles Times Book Review critique that Walker "uses carefully crafted images that provide a universality to unique events." The critic further asserted that Living by the Word "is not only vintage Alice Walker: passionate, political, personal, and poetic, it also provides a panoramic view of a fine human being saving her soul through good deeds and extraordinary writing."

Harsh criticisms of Walker's work crested with the 1989 publication of her fourth novel, The Temple of My Familiar. The novel, featuring several of the characters of The Color Purple, reflects concerns hinted at in that novel and confronted directly in Living by the Word: racism, a reverence for nature, a search for spiritual truths, and the universality referred to by reviewers Nelson and Bell. But according to David Gates in his Newsweek review, the novel "is fatally ambitious. It encompasses 500,000 years, rewrites Genesis and the Beatitudes and weighs in with mini-lectures on everything from Elvis (for) to nuclear waste (against)." David Nicholson, contributor to Washington Post Book World, felt that The Temple of My Familiar "is not a novel so much as it is an ill-fitting collection of speeches ... a manifesto for the Fascism of the New Age. ... There are no characters, only types representative of the world Walker lives in or wishes could be." In a similar vein, Time contributor Paul Grey noted that "Walker's relentless adherence to her own sociopolitical agenda makes for frequently striking propaganda," but not for good fiction. Though generally disliked even by sympathetic critics, the novel has its defenders. Novelist J.M. Coetzee, writing in the New York Times Book Review, implored the reader to look upon the novel as a "fable of recovered origins, as an exploration of the inner lives of contemporary black Americans as these are penetrated by fabulous stories," and Bernard W. Bell, writing in the Chicago Tribune, felt that the novel is a "colorful quilt of many patches," and that its "stylized lovers, remembrances of things past, bold flights of fantasy and vision of a brave new world of cultural diversity and cosmic harmony challenge the reader's willingness to suspend disbelief."

A Publishers Weekly reviewer of Walker's 1991 children's story Finding the Green Stone remarked that "the tone is ethereal and removed ... while the writing style, especially the dialogue, is stiff and didactic." But for Walker's collected poems, Her Blue Body Everything We Know: Earthling Poems, 1965-1990 Complete, a Publishers Weekly reviewer had high praise, characterizing Walker as "composed, wry, unshaken by adversity," and suggesting that her "strong, beautiful voice" beckons us "to heal ourselves and the planet."

Critics lauded Walker's controversial fifth novel, Possessing the Secret of Joy, about the practice of female genital mutilation in certain African, Asian, and Middle Eastern cultures. Writing in the Los Angeles Times Book Review, Tina McElroy Ansa noted that taking on such a taboo subject shows Walker's depth and range. The critic also felt that her portrait of the suffering of Tashi--a character from The Color Purple--is "stunning." "The description of the excision itself and its after effect is graphic enough to make one gag," but is the work of a thoughtful, impassioned artist, rather than a sensationalist, noted Charles R. Larson in the Washington Post Book World. And Donna Haisty Winchell wrote in her Dictionary of Literary Biography essay that Possessing the Secret of Joy is "much more concise, more controlled, and more successful as art" than The Temple of My Familiar and demonstrates an effective blend of "art and activism."

Walker's concerns about the international issue of female genital mutilation prompted her to further explore the issue, both on film and in the book Warrior Marks: Female Genital Mutilation and the Sexual Blinding of Women, written with documentary film director Pratibha Parmar. According to a Publishers Weekly contributor, Warrior Marks is a "forceful account" of how the two filmed a documentary on the ritual circumcision of African women.

In 1996, Walker produced The Same River Twice: Honoring the Difficult. The book focuses mainly on Walker's feelings about, and struggles with, the filming of The Color Purple. While having the book transformed into a film by Steven Spielberg was a high point in her life, it was also riddled with difficulties. First, Spielberg rejected Walker's screenplay of the book and implemented one with which Walker was not happy. In addition, the film itself was met with controversy and attacks on Walker's ideas--some people thought she had attacked the character of black people in general and black men specifically. Also at the time, Walker's mother was critically ill, while Walker herself was suffering from a debilitating illness that turned out to be Lyme disease. Included in the book are fan letters, reviews, and Walker's original version of the script. Francine Prose in Chicago's Tribune Books found fault with the book, feeling that Walker's protests about how things did not go her way ring of artistic posturing: "Walker seems to have so lost touch with the lives and sensibilities of ordinary humans that she apparently cannot hear how her complaints ... might sound to the less fortunate, who have been less generously favored by greatness."

In 1998, Walker's sixth novel, By the Light of My Father's Smile, was published, a book again focusing on female sexuality. The main characters are the Robinsons, a husband-and-wife team of anthropologists, and the story is told in flashbacks. Unable to secure funding for research in Mexico in the 1950s, the husband poses as a minister to study the Mundo, a mixed black and Indian tribe. The couple brings along their young daughter to this new life in the Sierra Madre. Sexuality is at the heart of the story, though the father reacts violently upon discovering that his daughter has become involved with a Mundo boy. This reaction has repercussions throughout the novel. Again, Walker experiments with points of view, even recounting the action through the eyes of the recently deceased patriarch of the Robinson clan. According to Prose, reviewing the novel in the New York Times Book Review, this novel deals with the "damaging ways in which our puritanical culture suppresses women's sexuality." However, Prose felt that in focusing on polemics, Walker's book becomes "deeply mired in New Age hocus-pocus and goddess-religion baloney." Prose also complained of "passages of tortuously infelicitous prose." Similarly, Nedhera Landers, writing in the Lambda Book Report, was disappointed to find "almost every character to be a two-dimensional stereotype."

Regardless of such criticism, however, Walker's literary reputation is secure. She continues to write in a variety of genres, from fiction to nonfiction and poetry. In 1997's Anything We Love Can Be Saved: A Writer's Activism, she details her own political and social struggle, while in the critically acclaimed short-story collection The Way Forward Is with a Broken Heart, she employs fiction in a "quasi-autobiographical reflection" on her own past, including her marriage to a Jewish civil rights lawyer, the birth of her daughter, and the creative life she built after her divorce. For Jeff Guinn, writing for the Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, the thirteen stories plus epilogue of this collection "beautifully leavened the universal regrets of middle age with dollops of uplifting philosophy." A contributor for Publishers Weekly described the collection as a reflection on the "nature of passion and friendship, pondering the emotional trajectories of lives and loves." This same reviewer found the collection, despite some "self indulgence," to be both "strong ... [and] moving." Adele S. News-Horst, reviewing the book in World Literature Today, found that it is "peopled by characters who are refugees, refugees from the war over civil rights, from the 'criminal' Vietnam-American War, and from sexual oppression." News-Horst further commented that the "stories are neither forced nor unnatural, and there is a sense of truth in all of them." And Linda Barrett Osborne, writing in the New York Times Book Review, called The Way Forward Is with a Broken Heart a "touching and provocative collection."

The versatile Walker returned to poetry with her 2003 collection Absolute Trust in the Goodness of the Earth: New Poems, her first verse collection in more than a decade. Walker had, she thought, given up writing, taking time off to study Tibetan Buddhism and explore the Amazon. Inspired by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, however, she began writing poems. Though just a few poems in Absolute Trust in the Goodness of the Earth deal with the attacks on New York and Washington, DC, the tragedy let Walker know that she was not yet done with writing. Guinn described the verse in the new collection as "choppy, with sparse clumps of words presented in odd, brisk rhythms." Such devices resulted, Guinn thought, in occasional "sophisticated thought in simple, accessible form." Short lines in free verse are the skeletons of most of the poems in the collection, many of them dealing with "social and environmental justice, and America's blinding ethnocentrism," as Kelly Norman Ellis described them in Black Issues Book Review. Ellis praised the poems in the collection as "psalms about the human capacity for great good and ... for unimagined brutality." A contributor to Publishers Weekly also commended this work, concluding that "readers across the country who cherished Walker's earlier poems will find in this new work exactly what they've awaited."

Walker returns to the literary form for which she is best known with her seventh novel, Now Is the Time to Open Your Heart, the tale of a successful African American female novelist, Kate, and her search for new meaning as she approaches sixty. In a longtime relationship with the artist Yolo, Kate decides to voyage down the Colorado River and then down the Amazon on trips of self-discovery. Yolo meanwhile goes on his own quest to Hawaii, and to the woman he once loved. Both Kate and Yolo are changed by their experiences. Some reviewers found this novel full of trite philosophizing. For example, Ellen Flexman, writing in Library Journal, while allowing that Walker "has some interesting insights on the power of stories and the nature of spirit," also felt that such revelations are "buried amid improbable situations and characters who have read too many bad books on spirituality." Flexman also noted that it "is difficult to take any of the characters seriously." Similarly, a contributor for Publishers Weekly called the novel an "inflated paean to the self," while a Kirkus Reviews critic complained of "the underlying smug preachiness, the unconvincing experiences, and the idiosyncratic thinking [that] make this more a self-indulgent fantasy than an intellectually provocative tale." Other reviewers were more sympathetic in their conclusions. Debby Waldman, writing in People, noted that the book might "strike some readers as New Age hooey," but that "Walker's evocative prose will please her fans." Likewise, Susan McHenry, of Black Issues Book Review, noted that she "started this novel skeptically, fearing a New Age ramble." However, McHenry found "reading this book a richly rewarding journey." And Booklist contributor Vanessa Bush praised this "dreamlike novel [that] incorporates the political and spiritual consciousness and emotional style for which [Walker] is known and appreciated."

In We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For: Inner Light in a Time of Darkness: Meditations, which was published in 2006, Walker offers readers a collection of essays that serve as a combination of intellectual and emotional theories. The short works synthesize many of Walker's spiritual concepts and ideas that have often been strongly visible in her fiction, and in the essays she meshes these more emotional theories with her ideas regarding politics, women's rights, and social change. The result is a volume that illustrates a way of life as well as a way of looking at the world. Walker expresses her belief that it is important to trust in the power and the good of people, and in their potential for creative ideas and ways of changing the world for the better. She talks about the importance of helping less fortunate people to help themselves in the hope of restoring their dignity as much as making them self-sustaining, contributing members of society. She stresses the need for freedom, justice, and peace for every person on the planet, and discusses the various issues that fly in the face of those important needs, including war, racism, and numerous types of oppression. Walker also addresses the state of the environment and the need for people to band together to stop the destruction of natural resources and to find a way to heal the world. The topics range from personal to global, as Walker writes about everything from her relationship with her grandmother to the pollution of the planet's water sources to Fidel Castro, making for a diverse, intriguing collection of works. In a review for the Spirituality and Practice Web site, Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat commented that "Walker impresses with her genuine concern for making the most of conscience, intuition, and hope." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly had a mixed opinion of the work, stating that "despite the annoying inclusion of homework-like assignments at the end of most essays, this book will inspire hope." Booklist reviewer Vanessa Bush opined that "this is a thoughtful and reflective look at life and the search for meaning."

Walker returns once more to writing for children with her book There Is a Flower at the Tip of My Nose Smelling Me, released in 2006. In this work, she encourages young readers to look at the world around them with fresh eyes, and to appreciate and to care for every aspect of their surroundings. The story is based in the idea of a world that reacts to our actions just as we react to it, a situation that, while it seems fantastical in the way that Walker describes it, is actually not that far from reality. Walker depicts a land where people influence the universe and the universe influences them in return, so not only would a person be able to smell a flower, but a flower would be inclined to return the favor. Likewise, though people dance, they also have the experience of the dance itself influencing their movements so that, in fact, the dance is dancing them in return. Over the course of the book, Walker reflects upon all sorts of things and activities that can, in essence, take over a person's spirit and help them to lead a fuller life, an action that can seem as if that object or action is the one that is influencing the person instead of the person being in control. While the book is clearly intended for younger children, the spiritual nature of its message means that it might be appreciated by readers of any age. A contributor for Kirkus Reviews dubbed the book "a text both ebullient and gentle, about a walk in the natural and in the spiritual world."

In another book for young readers, Why War Is Never a Good Idea, Walker tackles a difficult topic by using simple yet powerful words that create vivid images for children who are grappling with the concept of war and death. Walker personifies war, showing it as a living thing that makes decisions and wreaks havoc wherever it goes, destroying whatever might stumble into its path. She also makes it clear that war has no pity for those who find themselves trapped by it or the innocents affected by it. Despite the difficult topic, Walker includes some frightening material in her book, not in an attempt to scare readers but to allow them to grasp, in a nonthreatening environment, as much as they can regarding a serious topic. She depicts war not just as a person, but as a monster, and makes it clear that its terrible actions can result in death. This approach resulted in mixed reactions from reviewers. One writer in Publishers Weekly opined that "this book may be even more disturbing than a fact-based presentation." However, a contributor for Kirkus Reviews commented that "Walker's language is perfectly plainspoken without being coarse," and concluded that "children deserve to see this." Hazel Rochman, writing for Booklist, declared that "the activist message and sometimes frightening images will compel children to talk about what they feel."


PERSONAL INFORMATION

Born February 9, 1944, in Eatonton, GA; daughter of Willie Lee and Minnie Tallulah Walker; married Melvyn Rosenman Leventhal (a civil rights lawyer), March 17, 1967 (divorced, 1976); children: Rebecca. Education: Attended Spelman College, 1961-63; Sarah Lawrence College, B.A., 1965.

AWARDS

Bread Loaf Writer's Conference scholar, 1966; first prize, American Scholar essay contest, 1967; Merrill writing fellowship, 1967; MacDowell Colony fellowship, 1967, 1977-78; National Endowment for the Arts grant, 1969, 1977; Radcliffe Institute Fellowship, 1971-73; Ph.D., Russell Sage College, 1972; National Book Award nomination and Lillian Smith Award from the Southern Regional Council, both 1973, both for Revolutionary Petunias and Other Poems; Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Foundation Award, American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, 1974, for In Love and Trouble: Stories of Black Women; Guggenheim fellowship, 1977- 78; National Book Critics Circle Award nomination, 1982, and Pulitzer Prize and American Book Award, both 1983, all for The Color Purple; Best Books for Young Adults citation, American Library Association, 1984, for In Search of Our Mother's Gardens: Womanist Prose; D.H.L., University of Massachusetts, 1983; O. Henry Award, 1986, for "Kindred Spirits"; Langston Hughes Award, New York City College, 1989; Nora Astorga Leadership Award, 1989; Fred Cody Award for lifetime achievement, Bay Area Book Reviewers Association, 1990; Freedom to Write Award, PEN West, 1990; California Governor's Arts Award, 1994; Literary Ambassador Award, University of Oklahoma Center for Poets and Writers, 1998.

CAREER

Writer. Wild Trees Press, Navarro, CA, cofounder and publisher, 1984-88. Has been a voter registration worker in Georgia, a worker in Head Start program in Mississippi, and on staff of New York City welfare department. Writer in residence and teacher of black studies at Jackson State College, 1968-69, and Tougaloo College, 1970-71; lecturer in literature, Wellesley College and University of Massachusetts--Boston, both 1972-73; distinguished writer in Afro-American studies department, University of California, Berkeley, spring, 1982; Fannie Hurst Professor of Literature, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA, fall, 1982. Lecturer and reader of own poetry at universities and conferences. Member of board of trustees of Sarah Lawrence College. Consultant on black history to Friends of the Children of Mississippi, 1967. Coproducer of film documentary Warrior Marks, directed by Pratibha Parmar, with script and narration by Walker, 1993.

WRITINGS:
POETRY


* Once: Poems (also see below), Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1968.
* Five Poems, Broadside Press (Highland Park, MI), 1972.
* Revolutionary Petunias and Other Poems (also see below), Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1973.
* Goodnight, Willie Lee, I'll See You in the Morning (also see below), Dial (New York, NY), 1979.
* Horses Make a Landscape Look More Beautiful, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1984.
* Alice Walker Boxed Set--Poetry: Good Night, Willie Lee, I'll See You in the Morning; Revolutionary Petunias and Other Poems; Once, Poems, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1985.
* Her Blue Body Everything We Know: Earthling Poems, 1965-1990 Complete, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1991.
* A Poem Traveled Down My Arm: Poem and Drawings, Random House (New York, NY), 2002.
* Absolute Trust in the Goodness of the Earth: New Poems, Random House (New York, NY), 2003.

FICTION; NOVELS, EXCEPT AS NOTED

* The Third Life of Grange Copeland, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1970, reprinted, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2003.
* In Love and Trouble: Stories of Black Women, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1973.
* Meridian, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1976, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2003.
* You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down (short stories), Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1981, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2004.
* The Color Purple, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1982, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2003.
* Alice Walker Boxed Set--Fiction: The Third Life of Grange Copeland, You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down, [and] In Love and Trouble, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1985.
* The Temple of My Familiar, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1989.
* Possessing the Secret of Joy, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1992.
* Everyday Use, edited by Barbara Christian, Rutgers University Press (New Brunswick, NJ), 1994.
* By the Light of My Father's Smile, Random House (New York, NY), 1998.
* The Way Forward Is with a Broken Heart, Random House (New York, NY), 2000.
* Now Is the Time to Open Your Heart, Random House (New York, NY), 2004.

FOR CHILDREN

* Langston Hughes: American Poet (biography), Crowell (New York, NY), 1973, revised edition, illustrated by Catherine Deeter, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2002.
* To Hell with Dying (originally published 1967, as part of The Best Short Stories by Negro Writers, edited by Langston Hughes), illustrations by Catherine Deeter, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1988.

* Finding the Green Stone, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1991.
* There Is a Flower at the Tip of My Nose Smelling Me, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2006.
* Why War Is Never a Good Idea, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2007.

NONFICTION

* In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: Womanist Prose, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1983, reprinted, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2004.
* Living by the Word: Selected Writings, 1973-1987, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1988.
* (With Pratibha Parmar) Warrior Marks: Female Genital Mutilation and the Sexual Blinding of Women, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1993.
* Alice Walker Banned, with introduction by Patricia Holt, Aunt Lute Books (San Francisco, CA), 1996.
* Anything We Love Can Be Saved: A Writer's Activism, Random House (New York, NY), 1997.
* (With Francesco Mastalia and Alfonse Pagano) Dreads: Sacred Rites of the Natural Hair Revolution, Artisan (New York, NY), 1999.
* Sent to Earth: A Message from the Grandmother Spirit: After the Attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, Seven Stories Press (New York, NY), 2001.
* Letters of Love and Hope: The Story of the Cuban Five, Ocean (New York, NY), 2005.
* We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For: Inner Light in a Time of Darkness: Meditations, New Press (New York, NY), 2006.

OTHER

* (Editor) I Love Myself When I'm Laughing ... and Then Again When I Am Looking Mean and Impressive: A Zora Neale Hurston Reader, introduction by Mary Helen Washington, Feminist Press (New York, NY), 1979.

* The Same River Twice: Honoring the Difficult, Scribner (New York, NY), 1996.

Contributor to anthologies, including Voices of the Revolution, edited by Helen Haynes, E. & J. Kaplan (Philadelphia, PA), 1967; The Best Short Stories by Negro Writers from 1899 to the Present: An Anthology, edited by Langston Hughes, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1967; Afro-American Literature: An Introduction, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1971; Tales and Stories for Black Folks, compiled by Toni Cade Bambara, Zenith Books (New York, NY), 1971; Black Short Story Anthology, compiled by Woodie King, New American Library (New York, NY), 1972; The Poetry of Black America: An Anthology of the Twentieth Century, compiled by Arnold Adoff, Harper (New York, NY), 1973; A Rock against the Wind: Black Love Poems, edited by Lindsay Patterson, Dodd (New York, NY), 1973; We Be Word Sorcerers: Twenty- five Stories by Black Americans, edited by Sonia Sanchez, Bantam (New York, NY), 1973; Images of Women in Literature, compiled by Mary Anne Ferguson, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1973; Best American Short Stories: 1973, edited by Margaret Foley, Hart-Davis, 1973; Best American Short Stories, 1974, edited by M. Foley, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1974; Chants of Saints: A Gathering of Afro-American Literature, Art and Scholarship, edited by Michael S. Harper and Robert B. Stepto, University of Illinois Press (Chicago, IL), 1980; Midnight Birds: Stories of Contemporary Black Women Authors, edited by Mary Helen Washington, Anchor Press (New York, NY), 1980; and Double Stitch: Black Women Write about Mothers and Daughters, edited by Maya Angelou, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1993.

Contributor to numerous periodicals, including Negro Digest, Denver Quarterly, Harper's, Black World, Essence, Canadian Dimension, and the New York Times. Contributing editor, Southern Voices, Freedomways, andMs.


MEDIA ADAPTATIONS

The Color Purple was made into a feature film directed by Steven Spielberg, Warner Bros., 1985, and adapted as a musical by Stephen Bray, premiering in New York, NY, at the Broadway Theater, 2005.


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