Alice Walker
Evelyn C. White
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Buy *Alice Walker: A Life* online

Alice Walker: A Life

Evelyn C. White
W.W. Norton
538 pages
September 2004
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Most closely identified with her popular novel The Color Purple, which was later made into an extremely successful movie, Walker has actually written a variety of novels to address particular issues in society. A passionate writer, this complicated, deeply-intelligent child of southern roots has never shied away from controversial subjects in her work, frequently drawn to the rebellious factions of a changing society. Walker is fearless in her endeavors, throwing her considerable energy into ideas whose time has come, guided by her own conscience and vision.

The Georgia-born Walker showed her intelligence early, an avid learner drawn to educational pursuits and the written word. A student of humanity, Walker refuses to confine herself to traditional ideas or preconceptions but draws from her own experience. With a deep love for family and the black writers who were her precursors, Walker early found strength in their struggles, propelling herself into more uncharted waters. Often misunderstood and criticized, Walker defends her voice, her right to speak as an artist.

Biographer Evelyn C.White notes Walker's deep roots in the literary community and makes liberal use of quotations to illustrate the author's impact on black literary society. As in life, these writers frequently draw strength and support from their community; in Walker's case, breaking new ground to speak about forbidden topics: family abuse, violence and the mutilation of women's bodies.

Walker wields words as her most powerful tool, challenging racial, political and sexual boundaries, daring to bring such topics to light as FGM; such practices can never be eradicated until society acknowledges the horror of the mutilation of young African women. Yet Walker tackles less predictable ground in her work, with more esoteric subjects that envision a utopian world (The Temple of My Familiar), giving reign to a creative vision that expands upon the conventional. Yet The Color Purple remains the novel that defines Walker to most audiences, still as popular as when it was first released.

White has compiled an impressive biography, a fully-fleshed examination of Walker’s life, both public and private, her personal struggles as a writer and the effect of her closest relationships on her evolution as a woman. Walker is a work-in-progress, with much to contribute as an author who refuses to be intimidated or restricted by convention. In Walker’s own words: “Love is big. Love can hold anger, love can hold pain, love can even hold hatred. It’s all about love.”

© 2004 by Luan Gaines for

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