Walker, Alice (Vol. 103)
Alice Walker 1944–
American novelist, short story writer, essayist, poet, critic, and author of children's books.
The following entry presents criticism of Walker's work through 1996. See also Alice Walker Criticism (Introduction), and Volumes 5, 6, 9, 19, 27.
The acclaimed writer of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Color Purple (1982), Walker sees writing as a way to correct wrongs that she observes in the world, and has dedicated herself to delineating the unique dual oppression from which black women suffer: racism and sexism. Her work is an exploration of the individual identity of the black woman and how embracing her identity and bonding with other women affects the health of her community at large. Walker describes this kinship among women as "womanism," as opposed to feminism.
Walker was born and raised in Eatonton, Georgia, where her father was a sharecropper. When she was eight years old her brother shot her with his BB gun, leaving her scarred and blind in one eye. The disfigurement made Walker shy and self-conscious, leading her to try writing to express herself. The accident also had a permanent impact on her relationship with her father: his inability to obtain proper medical treatment for her forever colored her relationship with him, and they remained estranged for the rest of his life. In contrast, Walker notes that she respected her mother's strength and perseverance in the face of poverty, recalling how hard her mother worked in her garden to create beauty in even the shabbiest of conditions. Despite her disadvantaged childhood, Walker won the opportunity to continue her education with a scholarship to Spelman College. She attended Spelman for two years, but became disenchanted with what she considered a puritanical atmosphere there and transferred to Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York, to complete her education. It was while at Sarah Lawrence that Walker wrote her first collection of poetry, Once (1968), in reaction to a traumatic abortion. Walker shared the poems with one of her teachers, the poet Muriel Rukeyser, whose agent found a publisher for them. After college, Walker moved to Mississippi to work as a teacher and a civil rights advocate. In 1967, she married Melvyn Leventhal, a Jewish civil rights attorney; they became the first legally married interracial couple to reside in Jackson, Mississippi. She and Leventhal had a daughter, Rebecca; they divorced some years later. While working in Mississippi, Walker discovered the writings of Zora Neale Hurston, an author who would have a great influence on Walker's later work. Walker eventually edited a collection of Hurston's fiction called I Love Myself When I Am Laughing … and Then Again When I Am Looking Mean and Impressive: A Zora Neale Hurston Reader (1979). In addition to poetry, Walker has written short stories, collected in In Love and Trouble (1973) and You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down (1981), and several novels, most notably The Color Purple, which received both the Pulitzer Prize and the American Book Award.
Walker's work is occupied with the task of what Alma Freeman calls "unveiling the soul of the black woman," as Hurston endeavored before her. Walker's first novel, The Third Life of Grange Copeland (1970), introduces many of the themes that would become prevalent in her work, particularly the domination of powerless women by equally powerless men. The novel follows three generations of a black southern family of sharecroppers and its patriarch, Grange Copeland, as they struggle with racism and poverty. In Grange's "first life" he tortures his wife until she commits suicide. His son Brownfield inherits his sense of helplessness and hatred, and eventually murders his own wife. In Grange's "second life" he attempts to escape to the industrial North. Walker does not present industrial labor as a viable solution to the poverty of the South, however, and in his "third life" Grange returns to his southern home. At the end of the novel, Grange has become a compassionate man who longs to atone for the legacy of hate he has left his family, attempting to help his granddaughter Ruth escape from her father (Brownfield) and the South as a gesture of his remorse. Another theme in Walker's fiction is the way in which the black woman's attempt to be whole relates to the health of her community. The attempt at wholeness comes from remaining true to herself and fighting against the constraints of society, as in the stories from Walker's collection In Love and Trouble. Meridian (1976) is considered an autobiographical work. The title character was born in the rural South, like Walker, and uses education as a means of escape. Pregnant and married to a high school dropout, Meridian struggles with thoughts of suicide or killing her child, but eventually decides to give the child up and attend college. After graduating she enters an organization of black militants in Mississippi, but realizes that she is not willing to kill for the cause. With this knowledge she resolves to return to rural Mississippi to help its residents struggle against oppression. In The Color Purple, Walker uses the form of letters in creating a woman-centered focus for her novel. The letters span thirty years in the life of Celie, a poor southern black woman who is victimized physically and emotionally by her stepfather, who repeatedly rapes her and then takes her children away from her, and by her husband, an older widower who sees her more as a mule than as a wife. The letters are written to God and Celie's sister, Nettie, who escaped a similar life by becoming a missionary in Africa. Celie overcomes her oppression with the intervention of an unlikely ally, her husband's mistress, Shug Avery. Snug helps Celie to find self-esteem and the courage to leave her marriage. By the end of the novel, Celie is reunited with her children and her sister. The Temple of My Familiar (1989) is an ambitious novel recording 500,000 years of human history. The novel's central character, Miss Lissie, is a goddess from primeval Africa who has been incarnated hundreds of times throughout history. She befriends Suwelo, a narcissistic university professor whose marriage is threatened by his need to dominate and sexually exploit his wife. Through a series of conversations with Miss Lissie and her friend Hal, Suwelo learns of Miss Lissie's innumerable lives and experiences—from the prehistoric world in which humans and animals lived in harmony under a matriarchal society to slavery in the United States—and regains his capability to love, nurture, and respect himself and others. In Possessing the Secret of Joy, (1992) Walker examines the practice of female genital mutilation. The novel focuses on Tashi, a woman who willingly requests the ritual, in part because she is unaware of what the ceremony involves. Since discussion of the ritual is taboo in her culture, Tashi is ignorant of the profound impact the procedure will have on her life. The ritual is further examined in Warrior Marks, (1994), a nonfiction account of this ceremony still practiced throughout the world. Walker also collaborated with Indian filmmaker Pratibha Parmar to produce a film with the same title. The book covers the making of the film as well as bringing to light the consequences of this practice.
Walker earned high praise for The Color Purple, especially for her accurate rendering of black folk idioms and her characterization of Celie. Peter S. Prescott echoed the opinion of most reviewers when he called Walker's work "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'." Despite the nearly unanimous praise, there are several widely debated aspects of Walker's writing. One such aspect is her portrayal of black male characters as archetypes of black men in modem society. Many reviewers condemn her portrayals of black men as unnecessarily negative, pointing to the vile characters in some of her work and to her own comments about black men as evidence of enmity on her part. Other critics assert that the author, in presenting flawed characters, reveals typical shortcomings in the hope that real people burdened with these flaws will recognize themselves in her stories and strive to improve. Some reviewers also assert that Walker's work contains positive images of black men that are often ignored by critics. Beyond her portrayal of black men, some reviewers have found fault with Walker's characterization in general, opposing her tendency to refer to characters only with pronouns, thereby encouraging readers to consider the characters exemplary of anyone to whom that pronoun could apply. Finally, much of Walker's work is viewed as political in intent, at times to the detriment of its literary value. In contrast, reviewers praise works such as In Love and Trouble for balancing the art of storytelling with political concerns. Reviewers often praise Walker in her use of oral storytelling tradition, finding her work most convincing when she employs anecdotal narrative. Overall, critics commend her ability to incorporate a message within her narratives. In commenting on Possessing the Secret of Joy, Alyson R. Buckman states that [Walker's] "text acts as a revolutionary manifesto for dismantling systems of domination," echoing the sentiments of many reviewers. Critics have also lauded the nonfictional Warrior Marks for its exposure of the practice of female genital mutilation. Walker's work consistently reflects her concern with racial, sexual, and political issues—particularly with the black woman's struggle for spiritual survival. Addressing detractors who fault her "unabashedly feminist viewpoint," Walker explained: "The black woman is one of America's greatest heroes…. Not enough credit has been given to the black woman who has been oppressed beyond recognition."
Once (poetry) 1968
The Third Life of Grange Copeland (novel) 1970
Five Poems (poetry) 1972
In Love and Trouble (short stories) 1973
Revolutionary Petunias and Other Poems (poetry) 1973
Langston Hughes, American Poet (biography for children) 1974
Meridian (novel) 1976
Good Night, Willie Lee, I'll See You in the Morning (poetry) 1979
I Love Myself When I Am Laughing … and Then Again When I Am Looking Mean and Impressive: A Zora Neale Hurston Reader [editor] (fiction) 1979
You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down (short stories) 1981
The Color Purple (novel) 1982
In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: Womanist Prose (essays) 1983
Horses Make a Landscape Look More Beautiful (poetry) 1984
Living by the Word: Selected Writings 1973–1987 (essays) 1988
To Hell with Dying (juvenile) 1988
The Temple of My Familiar (novel) 1989
Finding the Green Stone [with Catherine Deeter] (juvenile) 1991
Her Blue Body Everything We Know: Earthling Poems 1965–1990 (poetry) 1991
Possessing the Secret of Joy (novel) 1992
Warrior Marks [with Pratibha Parmar] (nonfiction) 1994
The Same River Twice (essays) 1996
(The entire section is 150 words.)
SOURCE: "The Contrary Women of Alice Walker," in The Black Scholar, Vol. 12, No. 2, March/April 1982, pp.21-30, 70-1.
[In the following essay, Christian discusses how the women of Walker's In Love and Trouble fight to embrace their individual spirits and to overcome convention.]
In Love and Trouble, Alice Walker's collection of short stories, is introduced by two seemingly unrelated excerpts, one from The Concubine by the contemporary West African writer, Elechi Amadi, the other from Letters to a Young Poet by the early 20th century German poet, Rainer Maria Rilke. In the first excerpt, Amadi describes the emotional state of the young girl, Ahurole, who is about to be engaged. She is contrary, boisterous at one time, sobbing violently at another. Her parents conclude that she is "unduly influenced by agwu, her personal spirit," a particularly troublesome one. Though the excerpt Walker chose primarily describes Ahurole's agwu, it ends with this observation: "Ahurole was engaged to Ekwueme when she was 8 days old."
The excerpt from Rilke beautifully summarizes a view of the living, setting up a dichotomy between the natural and the social order:
… people have (with the help of conventions) oriented all their solutions toward the easy and toward the easiest side of the easy; but it is clear that we must hold...
(The entire section is 7061 words.)
SOURCE: "Novelist Alice Walker Telling the Black Woman's Story," in The New York Times Magazine, January 8, 1984, pp. 25-37.
[In the following essay, Bradley traces the development of Walker's career and discusses the strengths and weaknesses of her writing.]
I first met Alice Walker the way people used to: Someone I liked and respected pressed a dogeared copy of one of her books into my hands and said, "You've got to read this." The book was In Love & Trouble, a collection of stories written between 1967 and 1973. Some of them had been published previously in periodicals directed at a primarily black readership, in the feminist standard, Ms., and in mainstream magazines like Harper's, a spectrum that hinted at the range of Alice Walker's appeal, just as the book's eventual winning of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters' Rosenthal Award was a harbinger of honors to come, including the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
My reaction to the book was complicated. Some of the stories I judged professionally. "The Revenge of Hannah Kemhuff," the story of an old black woman who comes to a conjurer seeking revenge against a white woman who had humiliated her long ago, does not really work; the use of an educated apprentice to tell the tale seems intrusive and false. On the same professional basis, I liked "Roselily," a stark tableau of a wedding...
(The entire section is 7006 words.)
SOURCE: "Zora Neale Hurston and Alice Walker: A Spiritual Kinship," in Sage, Vol. II, No. 1, Spring, 1985, pp. 37-40.
[In the following essay, Freeman compares the journeys of the main characters of several of Walker's works, including Meridian, to the protagonist of Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God.]
Zora Neale Hurston, born in Florida near the turn of the twentieth century, was, for thirty years, the most prolific Black woman writer in the United States. Alice Walker, born in Georgia some forty years later, is one of the most prolific Black women writers in America today. Not only do both women stand as exemplary representatives of the achievement of the American Black woman as writer, but their fiction reveals a strong spiritual kinship. Though separated by place and by time, these two Black women writers, inevitably it seems, were drawn together, and Zora Hurston became an important influence in Alice Walker's life.
Zora Neale Hurston died in 1960. Alice Walker was not to encounter Zora Hurston and her work until the late 1960's. At this time, Alice was working with the Civil Rights Movement and collecting folklore stories in Mississippi. She was also "writing a story that required accurate material on voodoo practices among rural southern Blacks of the thirties," and she was finding the available resources, written primarily by "white, racist anthropologists...
(The entire section is 3387 words.)
SOURCE: "In Search of Our Fathers' Arms: Alice Walker's Persona of the Alienated Darling," in Black American Literature Forum, Vol. 20, No. 4, Winter, 1986, pp. 347-70.
[In the following essay, Royster discusses the complicated relationship between Walker and her audience and asserts that Walker's female protagonists are representations of Walker's perceptions of herself.]
Alice Walker's third novel. The Color Purple, is fueling controversy in many black American communities. Afro-American novelist/critic David Bradley recalls "sens[ing] that The Color Purple was going to be ground zero at a Hiroshima of controversy." Some women have found it difficult to lay the book down unfinished; some men have bellowed with rage while reading it (as well as afterwards). It appears that Walker's depiction of violent black men who physically and psychologically abuse their wives and children is one of the poles of the controversy and that her depiction of lesbianism is another.
Many critics have praised the novel, especially for its use of a black dialect that reviewers laud in such terms as "positively poetic," "eloquent," and "masterful." A reviewer in the New Yorker labeled the novel "fiction of the highest order." Peter Prescott called it "an American novel of permanent importance." A Publishers Weekly reviewer considers the book "stunning and brilliantly conceived";...
(The entire section is 9859 words.)
SOURCE: "We Are the Ones That We Have Been Waiting For: Political Content in Alice Walker's Novels," in Women's Studies International Forum, Vol. 9, No. 4, 1986, pp. 421-26.
[In the following essay, Christian discusses the interdependence of individual and societal change in Walker's novels.]
Because women are expected to keep silent about their close escapes I will not keep silent.
There is no question that Alice Walker's works are directed towards effecting social change, that she is a writer with political intent. Black women writers have little choice in this regard. Even if they could manage blindness, deafness to the state of black people, their status, as black, female, writer, a triple affliction, would, at some point, force them to at least consider the effect of societal forces on the lives of individuals. I make this bold-faced statement at the beginning of this essay on political content in Walker's novels, because it seems to me that our supposedly most radical avant garde critics seem to consist upon the unimportance of external reality, that the text ought to be dispersed, deconstructed—that writers do not mean what they write, do not even know what they write, that language is devoid of meaning, and is primarily a system...
(The entire section is 4425 words.)
SOURCE: "Alice Walker's Women," in Specifying: Black Women Writing the American Experience, The University of Wisconsin Press, 1987, pp. 110-28.
[In the following essay, Willis discusses the women of Walker's fiction, in particular Meridian, and their relationship to their history and community. She asserts that revolution can only succeed when an individual commits herself to the community.]
Be nobody's darling
Be an outcast.
Take the contradictions
Of your life
And wrap around
You like a shawl,
To parry stones
To keep you warm.
What the black Southern writer
inherits as a natural right is
a sense of community.
The strength of Alice Walker's writing derives from the author's inexorable recognition of her place in history; the sensitivity of her work, from her profound sense of community; its beauty, from her commitment to the future. Many readers associate Alice Walker with her most recent novel, The Color Purple, for which she won a Pulitzer Prize. But the best place to begin to define the whole of her writing is with the semiautobiographical novel, Meridian. In that novel I...
(The entire section is 6260 words.)
SOURCE: "Positive Black Male Images in Alice Walker's Fiction," in Obsidian II, Vol. 3, No. 1, Spring, 1988, pp. 23-48.
[In the following essay, Washington asserts that Walker does present some positive black male images in her work, and that her criticism of black men and women is in the spirit of helping them to grow and improve.]
Now that the controversy over Alice Walker's Pulitzer Prizewinning novel The Color Purple has subsided, it might be worthwhile to re-examine her fiction, specifically, the short stories, in an attempt to resolve the issue of her purported attack on Black males. In particular, her critics charged her with presenting a grossly negative image of Black men, who were portrayed as mean, cruel, or violent, entirely without redeeming qualities. In a review of the film of the novel, the Washington Post of February 5, 1986, stated: "But what is being heatedly discussed is the characterization of Black males as cruel, unaffectionate, domineering slap-happy oafs." Gloria Steinem, a major source of these discussions, writes in the June 1982, issue of Ms. magazine, that "a disproportionate number of her (Walker's) hurtful, negative reviews have been by Black men."
This "disproportionate number" is significant, but only because, according to Trudier Harris, "black women critics have … been reluctant to offer … criticisms of it." The reason for this...
(The entire section is 9832 words.)
SOURCE: "Alice Walker: The Achievement of the Short Fiction," in Modern Language Studies, Vol. XIX, No. 1, Winter, 1989, pp. 12-27.
[In the following essay, Hall Petry discusses the differences between the short stories of Walker's In Love and Trouble and her stories in You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down, asserting that the stories in the first collection are much stronger than those in the second.]
There's nothing quite like a Pulitzer Prize to draw attention to a little known writer. And for Alice Walker, one of the few black writers of the mid-'60s to remain steadily productive for the two ensuing decades, the enormous success of 1982's The Color Purple has generated critical interest in a literary career that has been, even if not widely noted, at the very least worthy of note. As a poet (Once, 1968; Revolutionary Petunias, 1973) and a novelist (The Third Life of Grange Copeland, 1970; Meridian, 1976), Walker has always had a small but enthusiastic following, while her many essays, published in black- and feminist-oriented magazines (e.g., Essence, Ms.), have likewise kept her name current, albeit in rather limited circles. The Pulitzer Prize has changed this situation, qualitatively and perhaps permanently. Walker's name is now a household word, and a reconsideration of her literary canon, that all but inevitable Pulitzer perk, is well underway....
(The entire section is 7852 words.)
SOURCE: "Alice Walker's Vision of the South in The Third Life of Grange Copeland," in African American Review, Vol. 27, No. 2, Summer, 1993, pp. 192-204.
[In the following essay, Butler discusses Walker's complicated portrayal of the South in The Third Life of Grange Copeland, in which she uses each life to show a different aspect of the South.]
Two-heading was dying out, he lamented. "Folks what can look at things in more than one way is done got rare."
In "The Black Writer and the Southern Experience," Alice Walker defines her response to the South in a richly ambivalent way. Although she stresses that she does not intend to "romanticize Southern black country life" and is quick to point out that she "hated" the South, "generally," when growing up in rural Georgia, she nevertheless emphasizes that Southern black writers have "enormous richness and beauty to draw from." This "double vision" of the South is at the center of most of her fiction and is given extremely complex treatment in her best work. While Walker can remember with considerable resentment the larger white world composed of "evil greedy men" who paid her sharecropper father three hundred dollars for twelve months of labor while working him "to death," she can also call vividly to mind the "sense of community" which gave blacks a way of coping with and sometimes...
(The entire section is 5091 words.)
SOURCE: "Victims of Tradition," in Washington Post Book World, January 16, 1994, p. 4.
[In the following review, Mann praises Walker's and Pratibha Parmar's attempt to illuminate the prevalence of female genital mutilation in Africa, but faults the book for a slow start.]
The World Health Organization estimates that some 80 million women living today have undergone an ancient and excruciatingly painful ritual known as genital mutilation. It is widely practiced in Egypt, the Sudan and the Horn of Africa—by rigidly patriarchal cultures. Pretexts marshalled to defend the practice range from religion and hygiene to cultural traditions. But the true reason this humiliating, dangerous practice continues is to ensure that women will remain virgins until marriage, and to maintain control over women by destroying their ability to enjoy sex. Mutilated women are turned into sexual vessels for men, many of whom believe the procedure enhances their own enjoyment.
The age at which girls are mutilated—from infancy to post-puberty—and the degree of mutilation varies widely between tribal cultures. Symbolic circumcision involves a ritual nicking of the clitoris to draw blood. Pharaonic circumcision, the most extreme form, involves the scraping away of the clitoris and the inner labia. Then, in a procedure known as infibulation, the outer labia are stitched together with sutures of catgut and with...
(The entire section is 1211 words.)
SOURCE: A review of Warrior Marks, in Lambda Book Report, Vol. 4, No. 6, September-October, 1994, p. 37.
[In the following review, Brown worth praises Warrior Marks by Walker and Pratibha Parmar for exploring the reasons that female genital mutilation and other forms of mutilation are allowed to continue.]
In 1989, while living part of the time in London, I reported on a series of cases of young girls who had been kidnapped and sexually mutilated in and around the city. But unlike other sex crimes I had reported on, these attacks were not at the hands of strangers. Each of these young girls had been mutilated at the request of her family.
I had been aware of the practice of so-called female circumcision since college when it had been a primary focus of the first International Tribunal on Crimes Against Women. But before the girls in London, I had never seen the face of genital mutilation close-up. And until I spoke with a Somali woman gynecologist at a London clinic, I never truly understood what was being done to these young girls in London and how their lives were forever altered.
Reading Warrior Marks created the same sense of horror and rage I felt in that London clinic. Alice Walker and Pratibha Parmar, a Pulitzer Prize-winning African-AmerIndian writer and internationally known Indian lesbian filmmaker, embarked on a joint project to document...
(The entire section is 788 words.)
SOURCE: A review of Warrior Marks, in NWSA Journal, Vol. 6, No. 3, Fall, 1994, pp. 511-14.
[In the following review, Levin admits the importance of stopping the practice of female genital mutilation, but asserts that Warrior Marks, by Walker and Pratibha Parmar shows a lack of understanding of cultural differences.]
Media attention to the issue of female genital mutilation is essential if this practice is to be stopped. An activist in Germany since 1977, I believe in the power of exposure and so I say, Thank you, Alice, and Thank you, Pratibha, for releasing your book and film, Warrior Marks. Premiering in Washington, DC, in November 1993, the film concerns 100 million of the world's females. In an April interview with Ghanaian activist Efua Dorkenoo, I learned it affects "6,000 each day, 2 million each year." The crisis needs airing, Efua told me.
Yet "I know how painful exposure is," Alice Walker says in the video's opening vignette. "It is something I've had to face every day of my life, beginning with my first look in the mirror each morning!" Thus, "in a deliberate effort to stand with the mutilated women, not beyond them," Walker offers as a leitmotif the analogy to her visual maiming, what she came to identify, once having become a "consciously feminist adult," as "a patriarchal wound." As a girl, she hadn't received the gift Santa Claus brought her brothers:...
(The entire section is 1543 words.)
SOURCE: "Ancient Spirits," in TLS, No. 4780, November 11, 1994, p. 19.
[In the following review, Messud states that while many of Walker's earlier short stories are skillful, her later stories are more like memoirs or essays which uphold a political agenda rather than art.]
None of the pieces in The Complete Stories of Alice Walker is new: the book is a combined reprinting of her two earlier collections, You Can't Keep A Good Woman Down and In Love and Trouble. It seems perhaps premature, given Walker's relative youth, to have deemed these two books the sum total of her short fiction output, and cynical readers might here spy a marketing strategy designed to dupe fans into buying duplicate copies of the stories unawares. The collection does, however, afford the opportunity to read again the work Walker produced before The Color Purple brought her immense success and she began to focus more particularly on the novel form. The short story is at once elastic and rigid, and Walker reveals her ability to stretch it to its limits, as well as her occasional failure to gauge where it will break. The stories here are a varied lot, reflecting the times in which they were written and the particular cultural heritage out of which Walker writes. Whether successful or not, they are all personal works of art, written with self-awareness and integrity.
This can be a mixed...
(The entire section is 1035 words.)
SOURCE: "The Body as a Site of Colonization: Alice Walker's Possessing the Secret of Joy," in Journal of American Culture, Vol. 18, No. 2, Summer, 1995, pp. 89-94.
[In the following essay, Buckman analyzes how the body can become a site of colonization, and the different methods of resistance as shown in Walker's Possessing the Secret of Joy.]
Imperialism is an economic, political, institutional, and cultural phenomenon that has been practiced by power elites in relation to the masses of the United States, especially in relation to Native Americans, blacks, women, and immigrant groups such as Asians. Although the term is generally used to describe the control of one nation over the political, cultural, or economic life of another, it may be extended to include internal, as well as external, colonialism. The colonial relationship is one of domination and subordination among groups and is constructed primarily on notions of difference; it is established and maintained in order to serve the interests of the dominant group, fortifying its position and eroding choice for non-elites through force, authority, influence, and dominance. Elites include those in positions of influence and power, i.e., those who have access to resources that enable them to dominate in the creation of policy and culture: religious, political, and economic leaders; educators; artists; publishers; and professional associations,...
(The entire section is 3871 words.)
SOURCE: "Celebrity and Other Complaints," in Washington Post Book World, January 2, 1996, p. 5.
[In the following review, Prose criticizes the boasting and complaining tone of Walker's The Same River Twice, a book comprised of essays, interviews, fan letters, and other writings.]
Whenever someone in our family lamented what might have seemed to others an enviable excess (too much work, too much travel, too many social obligations) my late father-in-law, who in old age was hard of hearing, used to shout at the top of his lungs, "Are you boasting or complaining?" Almost every page of The Same River Twice may make the most polite and patient readers long to ask Alice Walker that aggressively sensible question—and at pretty much the same volume.
The Same River Twice is a deeply peculiar compendium of diary entries, fan letters, accolades, reviews, admiring essays and interviews, a film synopsis and a screenplay. Most of these documents relate to the transformation of Walker's novel, The Color Purple, into the film directed by Steven Spielberg—a film that shares the book's title but not (according to its author) its subtexts and subtleties. Not only was the process of filming the novel fraught with complication, but so was Walker's personal life during that same period, a decade ago. Her mother was critically ill, she herself was suffering from Lyme disease,...
(The entire section is 951 words.)
Allan, Tuzyline Jita. "Womanism Revisited: Women and the (Ab)Use of Power in The Color Purple." In Feminist Nightmares: Women at Odds, edited by Susan Ostrov Weisser and Jennifer Fleischner, pp. 88-105, New York: New York University Press, 1994.
Discusses the negative aspects of female power in Walker's The Color Purple.
Baker, Jr., Houston A. and Charlotte Pierce-Baker. "Patches: Quilts and Community in Alice Walker's 'Everyday Use.'" Southern Review 21, No. 3 (July 1985): 706-20.
Compares the art of quilting in Walker's "Everyday Use" to overcoming chaos by skillfully stitching life's fragments.
Carter, Nancy Corson. "Claiming the Bittersweet Matrix: Alice Walker, Sandra Cisneros, and Adrienne Rich." Critique XXXV, No. 4 (Summer 1994): 195-204.
Discusses the journey of the artist as portrayed in Walker's In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens, Sandra Cisneros's The House of Mango Street, and Adrienne Rich's Your Native Land, Your Life: Poems.
Dieke, Ikenna. "Toward a Monistic Idealism: The Thematics of Alice Walker's The Temple of My Familiar." African American Review 26, No. 3 (Fall 1992): 507-14.
(The entire section is 1024 words.)