Awkward, Michael. Inspiriting Influences: Tradition, Revision, and Afro-American Women’s Novels. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989. Though dense, Awkward’s book may be useful in placing Walker within the context of her African American literary heritage and in providing some possibilities for interpreting The Color Purple and for understanding the connections among Zora Neale Hurston, Jean Toomer, and Walker. The book is laden with critical jargon but is nevertheless important in placing Walker in context historically, thematically, and politically. Awkward emphasizes the creative spirit of African American females and their search for self in a nonpatriarchal community as themes of Walker’s fiction. Endnotes may lead researchers to other useful materials on Walker’s fiction as well as on works by and on other African American women.
Bates, Gerri. Alice Walker: A Critical Companion. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2005. A well-crafted biography that discussed Walker’s major works, tracing the themes of her novels to her life.
Bauer, Margaret D. “Alice Walker: Another Southern Writer Criticizing Codes Not Put to ‘Everyday Use.’” Studies in Short Fiction 29 (Spring, 1992): 143-151. Discusses parallels between Walker’s In Love and Trouble and stories by William Faulkner, Katherine Anne Porter, Eudora Welty, and Flannery O’Connor. Argues that Walker, like these other southern writers, examines the tendency to support social and religious codes at the expense of individual fulfillment.
Bloom, Harold, ed. Alice Walker. New York: Chelsea House, 1989. An important collection of critical essays examining the fiction, poetry, and essays of Walker from a variety of perspectives. The fourteen essays, including Bloom’s brief introduction, are arranged chronologically. Contains useful discussions of the first three novels, brief analyses of individual short stories, poems, and essays, and assessments of Walker’s social and political views in connection with her works and other African American female authors. A chronology of Walker’s life and a bibliography may be of assistance to the beginner.
Bloxham, Laura J. “Alice [Malsenior] Walker.” In Contemporary Fiction Writers of the South, edited by Joseph M. Flora and Robert Bain. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1993. A general introduction to Walker’s “womanist” themes of oppression of black women and change through affirmation of self. Provides a brief summary and critique of previous criticism of Walker’s work.
Borgmeier, Raimund. “Alice Walker: ‘Everyday Use.’” In The African-American Short Story: 1970 to 1990, edited by Wolfgang Karrer and Barbara Puschmann-Nalenz. Trier, Germany: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 1993. A detailed discussion of the generic characteristics of one of Walker’s best-known stories. Analyzes the tension between the typical unheard-of occurrence and everyday reality as well as the story’s use of a central structural symbol.
Butler-Evans, Elliott. Race, Gender, and Desire: Narrative Strategies in the Fiction of Toni Cade Bambara, Toni Morrison, and Alice Walker. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1989. Focusing on the connections between gender, race, and desire, and their relationship to the narrative strategies in the fiction of these three contemporary writers, Butler-Evans argues that Walker’s works are “structured by a complex ideological position” oscillating between “her identity as ‘Black feminist’ or ‘woman-of-color’ and a generalized feminist position in which race is subordinated.” Useful discussions of Walker’s first three novels are included. Although no attention is given to short fiction, the student may receive assistance with understanding Walker’s “womanist” position in all her works. Includes somewhat lengthy endnotes and a bibliography.
Davis, Thadious M. “Alice Walker’s Celebration of Self in Southern Generations.” Southern Quarterly 21 (1983): 39-53. Reprinted in Women Writers of the Contemporary South, edited by Peggy Whitman Prenshaw. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1984. An early but still-useful general introduction to the works and themes of Walker, emphasizing particularly her concern for a sense of identity/self and her folk heritage. Davis discusses most significant works briefly, points out the sense of outrage at injustice in Walker’s fiction, including several short stories, and also makes frequent references to her essays.
Dieke, Ikenna, ed. Critical Essays on Alice Walker. New York: Greenwood Press, 1999. Especially well suited for use in college literature classrooms, this collection gives particular attention to Walker’s poetry and her developing ecofeminism.
Gates, Henry Louis, Jr., and K. A. Appiah, eds. Alice Walker: Critical Perspectives Past and Present. New York: Amistad, 1993. Contains reviews of Walker’s first five novels and critical analyses of several of her works of short and long fiction. Also includes two interviews with Walker, a chronology of her works, and an extensive bibliography of essays and texts.
Gentry, Tony. Alice Walker. New York: Chelsea, 1993. Examines the life and work of Walker. Includes bibliographical references and index.
Lauret, Maria. Alice Walker. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000. Provocative discussions of Walker’s ideas on politics, race, feminism, and literary theory. Of special interest is the exploration of Walker’s literary debt to Zora Neale Hurston, Virginia Woolf, and even Bessie Smith.
McKay, Nellie. “Alice Walker’s ‘Advancing Luna—and Ida B. Wells’: A Struggle Toward Sisterhood.” In Rape and Representation, edited by Lynn A. Higgins and Brenda R. Silver. New York: Columbia University Press, 1991. Shows how the story allows readers to see how women’s cross-racial relationships are controlled by systems of white male power. The story helps its audience understand why black women fail to provide group support for feminists of the antirape movement in spite of their own historical oppression by rape.
Mills, Sara, Lynne Pearce, Sue Spaull, and Elaine Millard. Feminist Readings, Feminists Reading. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1989. Analyzes Walker as a feminist writer from a feminist perspective. The book devotes the discussion of Walker mostly to The Color Purple, which is interpreted as an example of “authentic realism” designed for a female audience and as part of a female tradition beginning in the nineteenth century. More important, Walker is a part of the “self-conscious women’s” revisionist tradition that has been evident since the early 1980’s. Contains endnotes and a bibliography, as well as a glossary of terms related to feminist literary criticism and to literary theory in general.
Montelaro, Janet J. Producing a Womanist Text: The Maternal as Signifier in Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple.” Victoria, B.C.: English Literary Studies, University of Victoria, 1996. Examines themes of feminism, motherhood, and African American women in literature.
Petry, Alice Hall. “Walker: The Achievement of the Short Fiction.” In Alice Walker: Critical Perspectives Past and Present, edited by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and K. A. Appiah. New York: Amistad, 1993. A skeptical analysis of Walker’s short fiction that contrasts the successful and focused achievement of In Love and Trouble (1973) with the less satisfying You Can’t Keep a Good Woman Down (1981). Petry argues that the latter collection suffers in many places from unfortunate unintentional humor, trite and clichéd writing, and reductionism, and a confusion of genres that perhaps owe much to her being a “cross-generic writer.”
Pryse, Marjorie, and Hortense J. Spillers, eds. Conjuring: Black Women, Fiction, and Literary Tradition. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985. This useful book contains brief analyses of several Walker short stories as well as her first three novels; most of the discussion of Walker is, however, devoted to The Color Purple. Tracing the roots of Walker’s works to folk tradition, this study, a collection of essays on various African American female authors, emphasizes the influence of Zora Neale Hurston as well. Although no essay is devoted entirely to Walker, the book would be of some help in understanding Walker’s literary tradition and heritage.
Wade-Gayles, Gloria. “Black, Southern, Womanist: The Genius of Alice Walker.” In Southern Women Writers: The New Generation, edited by Tonette Bond Inge. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1990. An excellent, thorough introduction to the life and literary career of Walker. Placing emphasis on Walker’s voice as a black, southern woman throughout her works and arguing that Walker’s commitment is to the spiritual wholeness of her people, Wade-Gayles examines several essays that are important to an understanding of her fiction and beliefs, her first three novels, both collections of short stories, and her collections of poetry. Supplemented by a bibliography of Walker’s works, endnotes, and a useful secondary bibliography.
Walker, Melissa. Down from the Mountaintop: Black Women’s Novels in the Wake of the Civil Rights Movement, 1966-1989. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1991. Places Walker beside other African American women whose fiction mirrored the racial plight that called forth the Civil Rights movement.
Walker, Rebecca. Black, White, and Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self. New York: Riverhead, 2001. A self-indulgent but nevertheless insightful memoir by Alice Walker’s daughter. Rebecca Walker, who describes herself as “a movement child,” grew up torn between two families, two races, and two traditions, always in the shadow of an increasingly famous and absorbed mother.
White, Evelyn C. Alice Walker: A Life. New York: Norton, 2004. The life and accomplishments of Walker are chronicled in this biography through interviews with Walker, her family and friends.
Winchell, Donna Haisty. Alice Walker. New York: Twayne, 1992. Provides a comprehensive analysis of Walker’s short and long fiction. A brief biography and chronology precede the main text of the book. Each chapter refers to specific ideas and themes within Walker’s works and focuses on how Walker’s own experiences define her characters and themes. Following the narrative is a useful annotated bibliography.