Alice Walker: Contribution as American Novelist

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      Alice Walker was Afro-American novelist, short story writer and a poet. Born an African American and a child of sharecropper family in rural Georgia, she graduated from Spellman College and Sarah Lawrence College. One of her teachers was a committed political poet Muriel Rukeyser. Other literary influences on her works were Flannery O’Connor and Zora Neale Hurston. As a ‘womanist’ writer, as Walker calls herself she has been long associated with feminism, presenting the black existence from the female point of view. Like Morrison, Kincaid and Barbara, she uses heightened lyrical realism to center on the dreams and failures of credible people. First, she published Once Poems (1968) which reflects her experience of the Civil Rights Movement and Travels in Africa: Revolutionary Petunias and Other Poems got published in 1978. Her first novel The Third Life of Grange Copeland (1970) - is the story of three generations of black tenement farmers from 1900 to 1960s. In Love and Trouble: Stories of Black Women (1973) is her first collection of short stories. It explores the experience and heritage of black women, a theme to which Walker returns in the second collection.

      Her work underscores the quest for dignity in human life. She is a fine stylist in her epistolary dialect novel The Colour Purple, her work seeks to educate. In this respect, she resembles black American novelist Ishmael Reed who prose satires explore the social issues. Walker’s The Color Purple is the story of love between two poor black sisters that survives a separation over the years, interwoven with the story of how, during that same period, the shy ugly and uneducated sister discovers her inner strength through the support of a female friend. The theme of the supported woman give each other recalls Maya Angelou’s autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1970) which celebrates the mother-daughter connection and the work of white feminists such as Adriane Rich. The Color Purple portrays men as basically unaware of the needs and reality of women.

      The close up of the 1980s and the beginnings of the 1990s saw minority writings become a major fixture on the American literary landscape. This is true in drama as well as in prose. August Wilson who is continuing to write and see staged his cycle of plays about the 20th century black experience including Pulitzer Prize-winner’s Fences (1986) and Piano Lesson (1989) - stands alongside the novelist’s Alice Walker, John Edgar Wideman, and Toni Morrison. Walker’s other novels are - Meridian (1977), The Temple of My Familiar (1980) Possessing the Secret of Joy (1992), By the Light of My Father’s Smile (1998), Now Is the Time to Open Your Heart (2004). In addition to those, she published a biography of Langston Hughes for Children (1974) and several volumes of non-fiction writing, including In Search of My Mother’s Garden: Womanist Prose (1983), The Same River Twice (1996), Anything We Love Can be Saved: A Woman’s Activism (1997) and The Way Forward is with a Broken Heart (2000).

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