Alice Walker

Alice Walker

Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Color Purple.

Speaker Categories: Women Speakers in the Arts, Entertainment & the Humanities | Diversity & Inclusion | Inspiring Lives | Inspirational Women | Political Liberals | Diversity & Inclusion | Resilience and Overcoming Obstacles

Travels From: CA, United States.

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Born in 1944 in Eatonton, Ga., to sharecropper parents, Alice Walker has become one of the best-known and most highly respected writers in the United States and the first African American woman to ever win a Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

Alice was educated at Spelman College and Sarah Lawrence College. At a commencement speech at Sarah Lawrence years later, she spoke out against the silence of that institution's curriculum when it came to African-American culture and history. Active in the 1960s Civil Rights Movement in the South, she used her own and others' experiences as material for her searing examination of politics and black-white relations in her novel, Meridian (1976).

Beginning with her first novel, The Third Life of Grange Copeland, Alice has focused on a matrix that includes sexual and racial realities within black communities, as well as the unavoidable connections between family and society. For exposing the former, she has been criticized by some African-American male critics and theorists; for exploring the latter, she has been awarded numerous prizes while winning the hearts and minds of countless black and white readers.

Perhaps her most famous work is her book, The Color Purple, brought to the attention of mainstream America through the film adaptation by Steven Spielberg. In that novel of incest, lesbian love and sibling devotion, Alice also introduces blues music as a unifying thread in the lives of many of the characters.

Refusing to ignore the tangle of personal and political themes, Alice has produced five novels, two collections of short stories, numerous volumes of poetry and two books of essays. Though she has attained fame and recognition in many countries, she has not lost her sense of roots in the South or her sense of indebtedness to her mother for showing her what the life of an artist entailed. Writing of 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 back-breaking physical labor on someone else's farm return home only to walk the long distance to the well to get water for a garden at their doorstep. Alice watched her mother design that garden, putting tall plants at the back and planting so as to have something in bloom from early spring until the end of summer. Alice didn't know what she was seeing at the time, but as an adult, she calls her mother an artist full of dedication, a keen sense of design and balance, and a tough conviction that life without beauty is unbearable.

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