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Alice Walker Breaks Out As One of the Leading Female Voices in African American Literature

An African-American writer and activist, Alice Walker, began publishing her fiction and poetry during the final years of the Black Arts movement in the 1960s. racism and poverty all too well and with works expressing the need to tackle these issues, she has become one of America’s best known and most respected writers. with writers such as Toni Morrison and Gloria Naylor, commonly associated with the post-1970s boom in African American women’s literature.

Her activism began after attending Spelman College and Sarah Lawrence College, where Walker, in a commencement speech, spoke out against that institution’s curriculum silence on African-American culture and history. . Active in the civil rights movement of the 1960s in the South, she used her own experiences and those of others as material for her searing examination of politics and black-white relations in her novel. Meridian (1976).

From his 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 inevitable ties between family and society. For exposing the former, she was criticized by some African-American male critics and theorists; for exploring the latter, she received numerous awards while winning the hearts and minds of countless black and white readers.

Walker’s heroes, often women from the African American community struggling to emerge from a history of oppression and abuse, find the strength to bond with other women and look to the African past in the search for alternatives to this rapacious technological civilisation.

His most famous work, released in 1982, The purple color written in epistolary form, chronicles the life of a poor and abused Southern American black woman who grew up between 1909 and 1947 in a Georgia town who, after long suffering abuse at the hands of multiple men, eventually triumphs over oppression and achieves self-realization by affirming female relationships.

Steeped in incest, lesbian love, and sibling devotion, Color Purple also introduces blues music as a common thread in the lives of many characters. In her, she brought together many characters and themes from her earlier works thus creating “an American novel of enduring significance.”

Told by the voice of Célie, The purple color is structured through a series of letters written by a black southern woman (Celie), reflecting a history of oppression and abuse suffered at the hands of men. Celie writes about the misery of childhood incest, physical abuse and loneliness in her “Letters to God”. After being repeatedly raped by her stepfather, Célie is forced to marry a widowed farmer with three children. Yet her deepest hopes come true with the help of a community of loving women, including her husband’s mistress, Shug Avery, and Celie’s sister, Nettie. Celie gradually learns to see herself as a desirable woman, a healthy and valuable part of the universe.

The novel traces Celie’s resistance to the oppression around her and the liberation of her existence through positive and supportive relationships with other women. Perhaps even more than Walker’s other works, [The Color Purple] affirms above all that the most mistreated of the mistreated can be transformed.

Located in rural Georgia during segregation, The purple color brings together elements of 19th century slave autobiography and sentimental fiction with a confessional account of sexual awakening.

The book has won resounding acclaim for its masterful recreation of black folk discourse, in which Walker converts Celie’s “subliterate dialect” into a medium of remarkable expressiveness, color and intensity”, which he found it impossible to imagine Celie outside; for “through her not only a memorable and endlessly touching character, but an entire submerged world is vividly called into existence”. The purple color (1982) has been praised for Walker’s candid depiction of taboo subjects and for her clear interpretation of folk idiom and dialect. It garnered the most public attention as a book and as a major film. The novel won both the Pulitzer Prize and the American Book Award, and was made into a popular film that received several Oscar nominations.

The awards and its adaptation into a Steven Spielberg film brought the book starring Walker herself to the attention of mainstream America, becoming 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 this brought him not only fame, but also controversy. She has been widely criticized for her negative portrayals of men, though many critics admitted that the film presented more simplistic negative imagery than the book’s more nuanced portrayals. For the men mostly come for a rough deal with Walker’s harshest critics condemning his portrayal of black men in the novel as “man-bashing.” A recurring feature of his fiction is that black men represent a generation of men who “failed women and themselves.” It did, however, establish her as a dominant voice in the quest for a new black identity.

the Purple color became a point of demarcation in Walker’s work, being both the completion of the cycle of novels that she announced in the early 70s and the beginning of new accents for her as a writer. Fourteen years earlier, Walker had declared herself an African-American writer who was committed to exploring the lives of black women completing the cycle demonstrating: “the survival and liberation of black women through the strength and wisdom of others”.

She described the three types of female characters that she felt were missing from much of the literature of the United States.

First, there were those who were exploited both physically and emotionally. Their lives were narrow and confined and they were sometimes driven to madness. These were characterized by Margaret and Mem Copeland in her first novel.

Then there were those who were victims less of physical violence than of psychological violence, thus becoming women alienated from their own culture.

The third type represented most effectively by Celie and Shug in The purple color are those African-American women who, despite the oppression they experience, achieve a certain integrity and create spaces for other oppressed communities.

Refusing to ignore the tangle of personal and political themes, Walker produced half a dozen novels, two collections of short stories, numerous volumes of poetry, and collections of essays. Although she achieved fame and recognition in many countries, she did not lose her roots in the South or her sense of indebtedness to her mother for showing her what life as an artist entailed.

Writing about this central 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 draw water from his garden planted every year on their doorstep. Walker watched her design this garden, placing tall plants in the back and planting so that you have something in bloom from early spring until late summer. Although Walker didn’t recognize what she was seeing at the time, the adult Walker now sees her mother as an artist full of dedication, a keen sense of design and balance, and a firm belief that life without beauty is unbearable.

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 reviews. Her writings describe the struggle of black people throughout history and are praised for their insightful and compelling portrayals of black life, particularly the experiences of black women in a sexist and racist society.

Walker has described herself as a “womanist” – referring to a black feminist – which she defines in the introduction to her book of essays, In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Feminine Prose, as someone who “appreciates and prefers women’s culture, women’s emotional flexibility…women’s strength” and who is “committed to [the] the survival and integrity of whole persons, men and women.”

A theme throughout Walker’s work is the preservation of black culture, with her female characters forging important bonds to maintain continuity in personal relationships and communities.

Walker is interested in “heritage”, which for her “is not so much the great sweep of history or the artifacts created as the relationships of people to each other, from young to old, from parents to children, from man to woman”.

Further reading:Alice Walker Yearbook

  • Allan, Tuzyline. Womanist and feminist aesthetics: a comparative assessment. Athens: Ohio UP, 1995.
  • Butler-Evans, Elliott. Race, gender and desire: narrative strategies in the fiction of Toni Cade Bombara, Toni Morrison and Alice Walker. Philadelphia: Temple UP, 1989.
  • Russell, Sandy. Render 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 even more when I look naughty and awesome: Zora reader Neale Hurston. Zora Neale Hurston; Alice Walker, editor. Trade paperback, 1979.
  • In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Women’s Prose: Alice Walker, Trade Paperback, 1984 (originally 1983)

    Alice Walker and Zora Neale Hurston: the common bond: Lillie P. Howard, Contributions to African American and African Series #163 (1993)

    Same River Twice: Honoring the Difficult: A Meditation on Life, Spirit, Art & the Making of the Film, The Color Purple, Ten Years Later: Alice Walker, 1997 (originally 1996).

  • Banned Alice Walker: Banned Works: Alice Walker, edited and commented by Patricia Holt, Hardcover, 1996.
  • Everything We Love Can Be Saved: A Writer’s Activism: Essays, Speeches, Statements, and Letters. Alice Walker, Hardcover, 1997. Also Pin.
  • Alice Walker: An Annotated Bibliography: Erma D. Banks and Keith Byerman, Hardcover, 1989.
  • Alice Walker: Harold Bloom, editor. Library Binding, January 1990. Critical Essays on The purple color and other works by Alice Walker.
  • Erma Davis Banks and Keith Byerman Alice Walker: an annotated bibliography, 1968-1986 (New York: Garland, 1989).
  • Harold Bloom, ed., “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker Series of Modern Critical Interpretations (New York: Chelsea House, 2000).
  • Ikenna Dieke, ed., Critical Essays on Alice Walker (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1999).
  • Henry Louis Gates and K. A. Appiah, eds., Alice Walker: Critical Perspectives Then and Now (New York: Amistad Press, 1993).

  • Marie Lauret, Alice WalkerModern Novelists series (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000).
  • Evelyn C. White, Alice Walker: A Life (New York: Norton, 2004).
  • Donna Haisty Winchell Alice Walker (New York: Twayne, 1992).
  • The purple color, Short. Alice Walker and Menno Meyjes, dir. Steven Spielberg (Burbank, CA: Warner Bros., 1985). Qiana Whitted, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut

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