Today, I am officially kicking off Wisdom on Women Wednesdays which is also a part of my Weekly Wisdom Series. In today’s portion of WOWW, we will focus on the contributions and accomplishments of Alice Walker. We spoke a little bit about her on Monday but today we will use her story from a different standpoint.
Initially I wanted to feature Alice Walker for the Mama Day posts but quickly realized after doing some research that her stance on motherhood was not necessarily aligned with the theme. Also, I learned that her relationship with her only child has not been the best shape for a while. So for with respect for her ideologies and family, I decided to use her story in a way that appears to be more fitting. Regardless, I appreciate her work and think it’s important to educate those who might be unaware about her great contributions to the literary world.
Five Facts about Alice Walker
1)Tragedy propelled her love for books.
Often times whenever we hear the stories of amazing public figures, there are certain pieces to their success puzzle that is left out. Thankfully in the case of Alice Walker this is not the case. In several interviews Walker has expressed that at the age of about 8 or 9 years old she was accidentally injured with a BB gun while playing with her brothers. The injury resulted in blindness in one eye which led to emotional issues due to the physical impact following the accident. As a coping mechanism, Alice found herself enamored with a new found love for reading and writing. She later insisted that this moment of “isolation,” was a contributing factor that led her on the path to her passion for literature.
2) Alice Walker is a renown novelist, essayist, poet and short story writer.
While Alice Walker is most known for one of her most famous novels, The Color Purple, she has several others works within her collection that deserve praise and recognition. One of the factors that I find rather admirable about her work is its central focus on the lives of Black women. While there were Black women who were authors before her time, she took our experience and painted some of the most beautiful pieces of artwork about us through delicate strokes of pen to paper. Walker has contributed seven novels, four collections of short stories, four children’s books, seven volumes of poetry, and several essay publications. She even took time to edit, interpret, and promote the work of several Black women writers.
3) Walker is also an activist for both civil rights and women’s rights.
While Alice Walker’s writing in itself can be viewed as a form of activism, and it is, she is solely responsible for coining the term “Womanism.” Walker introduced this term in 1983 through her piece titled In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens: Womanist Prose. Overall, the term “womanist” was a direct response to the Feminist Movement due to the lack of concern for the issues that black women and other women of color experienced that white women did not experience. In essence a Womanist is a Black Feminist, but this is not to separate women from the movement. Instead Womanism is about including everyone into the movement which is something we as Black have been known to do for centuries (being inclusive that is). Furthermore, the term “womanist” was officially added to The American Heritage Dictionary along with the meanings from Alice Walker.
the black folk expression of mothers to female children, ‘You acting womanish,’ i.e. like a woman … usually referring to outrageous, audacious, courageous, or willful behavior. Wanting to know more and in greater depth than is considered ‘good’ for one … [A womanist is also] a woman who loves other women sexually and/or nonsexually. Appreciates and prefers women’s culture … and women’s strength … committed to survival and wholeness of entire people, male and female. Not a separatist … Womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender. (pp. xi–xii)
Walker has taken a stance in many humanitarian centered movements for much of her adult life and specifically she was directly involved in the 1960s Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi. Throughout her career as a writer, Walker has also dubbed as a lecturer and teacher going around the world to further inform others about the issues of poverty, economical oppression and the experience women. One of her most recent pieces, Overcoming Speechlessness: A Poet Encounters the Horror in Rwanda, and Eastern Congo and Palestine/Israel, highlighted her interaction with the group Women for Women International.
4) She is the first African-American woman to have won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
In 1983 Alice Walker became the first African-American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize in fiction for her best seller novel, The Color Purple. As many of us are aware of, her novel eventually developed into a movie directed by Steven Spielberg starring major African-American actors such as Danny Glover, Oprah and Whoopi Goldberg. The Color Purple even developed into a Broadway musical back in 2005.
In addition, Walker has won many more awards for her literary works including several best sellers, the National Book Award, and the Mahmoud Darwish Literary Prize for Fiction. Along with these awards, she was also inducted into the California Hall of Fame in 2006. Her work is so off the charts that she even has an archive section dedicated to her work that opened to the public at Emory University in 2007.
5) Alice Walker is the mother of author Rebecca Walker.
Last but certainly not least, clearly, the ink did not fall too far from the pen in terms of her daughter, Rebecca Walker, who is also a writer and lecturer who also explores various societal issues within her literary pieces. As mentioned earlier, I did notice during my research that there were many sources indicating an interesting perspective that Alice Walker has on motherhood. I will not get too deep into that topic in itself because it deserves a post of its own. In fact I do find that the mother-daughter relationships in the Black community tend to have a rather fragile dynamic (I know that this does NOT apply to everyone) but it is one that I would love to further explore in a future post.
Aside from Alice and Rebecca Walker’s personal issues or hardship with one another, it is amazing to still have Women of Color continue to share their truth through the art form that is writing. I am happy to have created this post because I ended up learning more about Alice Walker than I had ever known before and I got to discover Rebecca Walker.
Today we celebrate Alice Walker for her contributions to American literature through the lens of the Black experience and her efforts of standing with oppressed people throughout the world. We thank you, Alice Walker for also shedding a light on racial relations, the issues with white feminism, economic hardships, and even spiritual defeat that exists within the lives of the marginalized people of the world.
Without holding back she has released an enormous part of herself on every page of literary work she has released into the world. Alice Walker most certainly exerted her strength, stood in her power and in her greatness. So we are glad to have her today as the first woman featured in our Wisdom on Women Wednesday series. She is most certainly a Woman of Color that you should be informed about and read up on! Check out her website for more information about her life and collection of literature.