Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Walker, in Her Own Shoes

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Walker, in Her Own Shoes

Article excerpt

Alice Walker's daughter, Rebecca Walker, talks about growing up as a multiracial "Movement Child"--and why she downplays her bisexuality in her new memoir

In 1969 in Jackson, Miss., aspiring black writer Alice Walker, married to white Jewish civil rights attorney Mel Leventhal, gave birth to a multiracial child, a "translator," named Rebecca. "I am not a bastard, the product of a rape, the child of some white devil. I am a Movement Child," the 31-year-old Walker writes in her searching autobiography, Black, White and Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self (Riverhead, $23.95). "I am not tragic."

But when her parents divorced, the girl was raised by each in two-year shifts, shuttling between coasts (mostly San Francisco and Larchmont, N.Y.), between cultures (structureless bohemia and Jewish suburbia), and found herself a "movement" child as much psychologically as politically. At Fire Lake, a "gauche" Jewish summer camp, she gets denied "Sing Captain" honors--she then remembers she was told she is "intimidating," and intimidating is "another word for black." With a black uncle, she is told she laughs like a "cracker." "A part of me feels pushed away when they say this," Walker writes, "like I have something inside of me I know they hate."

For Walker, this rich, discursive book--which took four years to write--was a way to stitch herself into a coherent whole. "My body was part of a great stow about changing race relationships in our country," she says from Berkeley, Calif., where she lives with her partner of five years, singer Meshell N'degeocello. "But with my parents' divorce, that stow fell apart, and they didn't rewrite the stow enough to make me continue to make sense." The book, not surprisingly, has been "sobering" for them. "The intensity of the loneliness and displacement I felt was a revelation for them," she says.

For all the warp and weave of her "shifting self," Walker hasn't just made provisional peace with the in-between. As cofounder of the Third Wave Direct Action Corporation, a nonprofit that nurtures activism and leadership in young women, and having edited anthologies on feminism and masculinity, she's used the in-between for maximum social impact. …

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