Alice Walker

Alice Walker

Alice Walker

Alice Walker


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A contemporary writer who calls herself "author and medium" is by no means idiosyncratic, and Alice Walker certainly seems to me a wholly representative writer of and for our current era. The success of The Color Purple is deserved; Walker's sensibility is very close to the Spirit of the Age. Rather than seek to analyze verse and fictional prose that is of a kind I am not yet competent to judge, or a speculative essay such as "In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens" which eludes me, I will center here upon Walker's meditations upon her acknowledged precursor, Zora Neale Hurston. "There is no book more important to me than this one," Walker wrote of Hurston's masterwork, Their Eyes Were Watching God. Perhaps the only literary enthusiasm I share with Walker is my own deep esteem for that admirable narrative, about which I have written elsewhere.

Walker associated her feeling for Hurston with her similar veneration for famous black women singers, Billie Holiday and Bessie Smith. That association is a moving trope or defense, since Hurston, like Walker, was a writer and not a vocalist. Here is another tribute by Walker to Hurston:

We live in a society, as blacks, women, and artists, whose contests we do not design and with whose insistence on ranking us we are permanently at war. To know that second place, in such a society, has often required more work and innate genius than first, a longer, grimmer struggle over greater odds that first—and to be able to fling your scarf about dramatically while you demonstrate that you know—is to trust your own self-evaluation in the face of the Great White Western Commercial of white and male supremacy, which is virtually everything we see, outside and often inside our own homes. That Hurston held her own, literally, against the flood of whiteness and maleness that diluted so much other black art of the period in which she worked is a testimony to her genius and her faith.

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