Alice Walker, 1944–, African-American novelist and poet, b. Eatonon, Ga. The daughter of sharecroppers, she studied at Spelman College (1961–63) and Sarah Lawrence College (B.A., 1965). She brings her travel experience in Africa and memories of the American civil-rights movement to an examination of the experience of African Americans, mainly in the South, and of Africans. A self-described
she has maintained a strong focus on feminist issues within African-American culture. Walker won wide recognition with her novel The Color Purple (1982; Pulitzer Prize; film, 1985), a dark but sometimes joyous saga of a poor black Southern woman's painful journey toward self-realization. Among her other novels are Meridian (1976), The Temple of My Familiar (1989), By the Light of My Father's Smile (1994), and Now Is the Time to Open Your Heart (2004). Her short-story collections include You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down (1981) and the partially autobiographical The Way Forward Is with a Broken Heart (2000). She has also written poetry, such as Revolutionary Petunias and Other Poems (1973), Her Blue Body Everything We Know: Earthling Poems 1965–1990 (1991), and Absolute Trust in the Goodness of the Earth (2003). Many of her essays are collected in Living by the Word (1988) and Anything We Love Can Be Saved (1997).
See biography by E. C. White (2004); studies by D. W. Winchell (1992), H. L. Gates et al., ed. (1993), and Ikenna Dieke, ed. (1999).