Alice Walker

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Walker, Alice (Vol. 5)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Walker, Alice 1944–

Ms Walker is a Black American novelist, short story writer, and poet, born in Georgia and now living and teaching in Massachusetts. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 37-40.)

Alice Walker has delivered a magnificent first novel in The Third Life of Grange Copeland. It is about three generations of black sharecroppers in Georgia. Suffering deprivations foisted upon them by white bosses, they are still significantly the victims of cruelties inflicted upon each other—cruelties that emanate from a profound lack of self-respect, fostered by whites and blacks alike, and a powerfully destructive despair. The tremendous difficulty of emerging from these depths is what Miss Walker sets out to dramatize. She begins with Grange Copeland's early failure as a sharecropper, father, husband, and man—a life he abruptly and unilaterally abandons for a new one in the North, which almost predictably turns out to be no less degrading. Meanwhile, his abandoned son, Brownfield, repeats in his life the worst errors in his father's: he marries a good and lovely woman whose higher education he sees as a threat and therefore does not rest until he brings her down to a misery so abject that it all but crushes her…. Grange brings up the youngest of his grandchildren, Ruth, whom he tries not only to protect but to provide with a sense of self-esteem that his son has totally lacked and that, up until his own return south, he himself has missed. It is too easy, he has found, to blame everything on the white man. Somewhere along the way a man, even a black man, must assume responsibility for what happens to himself, if he is ever to become truly a man. (pp. 464-65)

Grange dies believing that there is no future for black men in this country, that it is too late for blacks to forget or forgive the harm that has been done them, regardless of changes that may bring equality for all men. But he also knows that "Survival was not everything. He had survived. But to survive whole was what he wanted for Ruth"…. The self-respect, tenderness, and love that Grange has taught Ruth in their years together can support something bigger, including as it does even the bitter memories of her girlhood. She will not repeat the mistakes of her mother or grandmother, nor let the bitterness triumph….

[The] honest treatment of both past and present, the worst aspects of which Miss Walker does not flinch at, help make The Third Life a convincing and stirring novel. So do its firm, tight control and its eloquence: it is no surprise to learn that the author is also a poet. (p. 465)

Jay L. Halio, in The Southern Review (copyright, 1973, by the Louisiana State University), Vol. IX, No. 1, Spring, 1973.

There is little doubt that, [with In Love & Trouble, a collection of stories,] Alice Walker has touched us all. Whether a JuJu woman convincing an ole evil white woman to die or a black lady being ejected from worship because it's the wrong church. In "Strong Horse Tea" the question posed—When will this one learn to depend on those who will come?—awaits our answer. Alice has begun peeling an essence. They are not pretty—these short stories—nor happy—as one traditionally thinks of stories about black women and their men, black mothers and their children, old black ladies and their gods. I applaud In Love & Trouble. I welcome the examination without polemics. I certainly welcome the love Alice so painfully shares.

Nikki Giovanni, "So Black and Blue," in Book World—The Washington Post (© The Washington Post), November 18, 1973, p. 1.

Alice Walker has focused her fictional eye on the black woman, her loves and, as the blues idiom puts it, her 'bukes and scorns …'. And, like the lyrics of good blues, [the stories in "In Love and Trouble"] are terse, ironic and humorous. Alice Walker writes efficiently and economically, and the shorter pieces here, even when thin as fiction, are often prose poems.

While not as ambitious as her novel, "The Third Life of Grange...

(The entire section is 1,067 words.)