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Alice Walker Breaks Out As One of the Leading Female Voices in African American Literature
African-American author and activist Alice Walker began publishing her fiction and poetry during the final years of the Black Arts movement in the 1960s. Born in 1944 in Eatonton, Georgia, to co-parents, she knew racism and poverty only too well, and with works expressing the need to confront such issues she became one of America’s best-known and most respected writers. Along with writers such as Toni Morrison and Gloria Naylor , commonly associated with the post-1970s surge in African-American literature.
Her activism began after she was educated at Spelman College and at Lawrence College, where Walker, in a commencement speech, spoke out against the silencing of that institution’s curriculum for African American culture and history. An activist in the civil rights movement in the 1960s South, she used her own experiences and those of others as material for her searing examination of black-white politics and relations in her novel. meridian (1976).
Starting with her first novel, The Third Life of Grange Copeland, Walker focused on issues such as sexual and racial realities within black communities, as well as the inescapable connections between family and society. Upon revealing the former, she was criticized by some African-American critics and theorists; For exploring the latter, she has won numerous awards while capturing the hearts and minds of countless black and white readers.
Walker’s protagonists, often women in the African-American community struggling to emerge from a history of oppression and abuse, find strength in connection with other women and turn to the African past in search of alternatives to this predatory technological civilization.
Her most famous work, published in 1982, The color purple Written in a typeface, it describes the life of a poor and abused black woman from South America who grew up between 1909 and 1947 in a town in Georgia, who after suffering for a long time from abuse at the hands of several men eventually overcomes oppression and achieves self-realization. through the approval of female relationships.
Infused with incest, lesbian love, and brotherly devotion, The Color Purple also features blues music as a unifying thread in the lives of many of the characters. at him, She brought together many of the characters and themes of her earlier works and thus created “an American novel of permanent importance”.
Told through Sally’s voice, The color purple Structured through a series of letters written by a southern black woman (Sally), reflecting a history of oppression and abuse suffered at the hands of men. Sally writes about the misery of childhood incest, physical abuse and loneliness in “Letters to God”. After being repeatedly raped by her stepfather, Seely is forced to marry a widowed farmer with three children. However, her deepest hopes are realized with the help of a loving community of women, including her husband’s lover, Shag Avery, and Seely’s sister, Nettie. Seely gradually learns to see herself as a desirable woman, a healthy and precious part of the universe.
The novel charts Seeley’s resistance to the oppression around her, and the liberation of her existence through positive and supportive relationships with other women. Perhaps even more so than Walker’s other works, [The Color Purple] Especially confirming that the most abused of abusers can change herself.
Set in rural Georgia during segregation, The color purple Brings elements of nineteenth-century slave autobiography and sentimental fiction together with a confessional narrative of sexual awakening.
The book has been critically acclaimed for its masterful reconstruction of black vernacular, in which Walker converts Seeley’s “intelligent dialect into a medium of extraordinary expressiveness, color, and poignancy,” without which Seeley could not be imagined; Because “through him, not only an unforgettable and infinitely touching character, but an entire immersed world is vividly read.” The color purple (1982) was praised for Walker’s honest depiction of taboo subjects and her clear rendering of vernacular and dialect. It generated the greatest public attention as a book and as a major motion picture. The novel won both the Pulitzer Prize and the American Book Award, and became a popular motion picture that received several Academy Award nominations.
The awards and its film adaptation by Steven Spielberg brought the book along with Walker herself to the attention of Central America and thus became known to an even wider audience. The musical stage adaptation of the book premiered at the Alliance Theater in Atlanta in 2004 and opened on Broadway in 2005.
But it brought her not only fame but also controversy. She was widely criticized for her negative portrayals of men, Although many critics admitted that the film presented more simplistic negative images than the book’s more nuanced depictions. Because men come mostly for a raw deal with Walker’s harshest critics, who decry the novel’s depiction of black men as “male exhalation.” A recurring feature of her fiction are black men who represent a generation of men who ‘failed women and themselves’. However, it established her as a dominant voice in the search for a new black identity.
God purple color became a border point in Walker’s work, being both the completion of the cycle of novels she announced in the early 1970s and the beginning of new emphases for her as a writer. For fourteen years earlier, Walker had declared herself an African-American writer committed to exploring the lives of black women who had completed the cycle and exemplified: “the survival and liberation of black women through the power and wisdom of others.”
She described the three types of female characters she felt were missing from much of American literature.
First, there were those who were saved both physically and emotionally. Their lives were narrow and restrictive and they were sometimes driven to madness. These were characterized by Margaret and Mem Copeland in her first novel.
Second were those who were victims not so much of physical violence but of mental violence, thus becoming women alienated from their culture.
The third type most effectively represented by Seeley and Shug inward The color purple They are those African-American women who, despite the oppression they suffer, achieve a certain wholeness and create spaces for other oppressed communities.
Refusing to ignore the tangle of personal and political issues, Walker has produced half a dozen novels, two collections of short stories, numerous volumes of poetry, and books of essays. Although she gained fame and recognition in many countries, she did not lose her sense of her southern roots or her sense of debt to her mother for showing her what the life of an artist entails.
When she writes about this pivotal experience in her famous essay, “In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens,” she talks about watching her mother at the end of a day of backbreaking physical labor on someone else’s farm return home only to walk the long distance. to their well to bring water to her garden planted every year on their doorstep. Walker looked at the design of this garden, putting tall plants in the back and planting so that there would be something blooming from early spring to late summer. Although Walker didn’t recognize what she saw at the time, the older Walker now sees her mother as a devoted artist, with a keen sense of design and balance, and a fierce belief that life without beauty is intolerable.
Recognized as one of the leading voices among black American women writers, Alice Walker has produced an acclaimed and diverse body of work, including poetry, novels, short stories, essays, and criticism. Her writings describe the struggle of black people throughout history, and are praised for their insightful and fascinating portraits of black life, especially the experiences of black women in a sexist and racist society.
Walker described herself as a “feminine” – referring to a black feminist – which she defines in the introduction to her book of essays, In search of our mothers’ gardens: female prose, as someone who “appreciates and prefers women’s culture, women’s emotional flexibility… women’s power” and is “committed to [the] survival and wholeness of whole persons, male and female.”
A theme throughout Walker’s work is the preservation of black culture, with her female characters making important connections to maintain continuity in both personal relationships and communities.
Walker deals with “heritage”, which in her eyes “is not so much the great sweep of history or the objects created but the relationships of people to each other, young to old, parent to child, man to woman”.
Additional readings:Alice Walker Library
- Allen, Tuzilin. Female and Feminist Aesthetics: A Comparative Review. Athens: Ohio UP, 1995.
- Butler-Evans, Eliot. Race, Gender, and Desire: Narrative Strategies in the Fiction of Toni Cade Bombera, Toni Morrison, and Alice Walker. Philadelphia: Temple UP, 1989.
- Russell, Sandy. Give Me My Song: African American Women Writers from Slavery to the Present. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1992.
- I love myself when I laugh… and then again when I look bad and impressive: Zora Neale Hurston reads. Zora Neale Hurston; Alice Walker, editor. Trade paperback, 1979.
- In search of the gardens of our mothers: female prose: Alice Walker, Trade Paperback, 1984 (originally 1983)
Alice Walker and Zora Neale Hurston: The Common Bond: Lillie P. Howard, Contributions in Afro-American & African Series #163 (1993)
The Same River Twice: Honoring the Difficult: A Meditation on Life, Spirit, Art, and the Making of the Film The Color Purple, Ten Years Later: Alice Walker, 1997 (originally 1996).
- Alice Walker Forbidden: The Forbidden Works: Alice Walker, edited and with commentary by Patricia Holt, hardcover, 1996.
- Anything We Love Can Be Saved: Writer’s Activism: Essays, Speeches, Statements, and Letters. Alice Walker, hardcover, 1997. Ditto paperback.
- Alice Walker: An Annotated Bibliography: Arma D. Banks and Keith Bierman, hardcover, 1989.
- Alice Walker: Harold Bloom, editor. Library Binding, January 1990. Critical Essays on The color purple and other works by Alice Walker.
- Arma Davis Banks and Keith Bierman, Alice Walker: An Annotated Bibliography, 1968-1986 (New York: Garland, 1989).
- Harold Bloom, editor, “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker Modern Critical Commentary Series (New York: Chelsea House, 2000).
- Akane Dike, editor, Critical Essays on Alice Walker (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1999).
Henry Louis Gates and KA Appiah, eds. Alice Walker: Critical Perspectives Past and Present (New York: Amistad Press, 1993).
- Maria Loret, Alice WalkerModern Novels Series (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000).
- Evelyn C. White, Alice Walker: Life (New York: Norton, 2004).
- Donna Hastie Winchell, Alice Walker (New York: Twain, 1992).
- The color purple, order Alice Walker and Manu Mace, director. Steven Spielberg (Burbank, CA: Warner Bros., 1985). Qiana Whitted, Yale University, New Haven, CT
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