Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

The essay collection In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Prose gathers nonfiction that Alice Walker, a novelist, short-story writer, and poet, wrote between 1966 and 1982. It includes book reviews published in scholarly journals and popular magazines, transcripts of addresses to groups and institutions, and articles for Ms. magazine. The earliest selection is the essay “The Civil Rights Movement: What Good Was It?” which won Walker a prize in the annual American Scholar contest when she was twenty-three. Among the latest is “Writing The Color Purple,” which sketches how Walker wrote the novel that won her the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

The title of the book is taken from the title of the major essay, a classic and groundbreaking discussion of the black woman writer’s struggle for freedom of self-expression and her search for the roots of her creativity. The front matter includes a definition of “womanist” as a black feminist that distinguishes “womanist” from “feminist” as purple is distinguished from lavender. The publication acknowledg-ments at the back of the book provide detailed information on the original publication and presentation of the articles and speeches.

The thirty-six selections, ranging from three to twenty-nine pages, are arranged in four parts, each of which is loosely organized around several themes. A principal theme of part 1 is the artist’s need for...

(The entire section is 517 words.)