Contemporary Black American Fiction Writers

By Harold Bloom | Go to book overview

Alice Walker
b. 1944

ALICE MALSENIOR WALKER was born on February 9, 1944, in Eatonton, Georgia, the eighth child of sharecroppers Willie Lee and Minnie Tallulah (Grant) Walker. When she was eight she was blinded in her right eye after being accidentally shot with a BB gun by one of her brothers. She attended Spelman College from 1961 to 1963, then left to travel in Africa. She transferred to Sarah Lawrence College, where she received a B.A. in 1965. About this time she underwent a severe trauma in which she aborted a pregnancy and came close to suicide. In response to these events she took to writing, producing her first published short story, " To Hell with Dying," and the poems that would form her first collection of poetry. She married civil rights lawyer Melvyn Rosenman Leventhal in 1967; they had one child before their divorce in 1976.

During the late 1960s Walker participated in the civil rights movement in Mississippi. She wrote an essay, " The Civil Rights Movement: What Good Was It?," that won an American Scholar essay contest. She worked with Head Start programs in Mississippi and later served as writer in residence at Tougaloo College and Jackson State University.

Alice Walker has written several volumes of poetry, including Once ( 1968), Revolutionary Petunias and Other Poems ( 1973), Good Night, Willie Lee, I'll See You in the Morning ( 1979), Horses Make a Landscape More Beautiful ( 1984), and, most recently, Her Blue Body Everything We Know: Earthling Poems 1965-1990 Complete ( 1991). They have received considerable praise, particularly from the black and feminist communities.

Walker is, however, primarily known as a novelist. Her first novel, The Third Life of Grange Copeland ( 1970), depicts three generations in the life of a poor farm family. It was praised for the sensitivity with which the characters were drawn, but it received little attention from either popular or academic circles. In 1970 Walker discovered the work of Zora Neale Hurston, whom she would be instrumental in raising to the status of a major American author. Hurston's influence can be seen in many of the short

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