Langston Hughes was impressed with Alice Walker's unique creative talent when he commented in 1966 that he had never "read a story like 'To Hell With Dying' before." Subsequently, Walker has written eleven books and received numerous honors and accolades. But it was not until 1983 that she won the American Book Award, shed her mantle of obscurity at 39, and became, in her own words, "a name brand." This was the year that The Color Purple held a place on the New York Times' Bestsellers List for over twenty-five weeks; it was the year Walker became the first Black woman to win the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
The long road to fame began for Alice Walker at the tender age of eight when she was blinded accidentally in one eye. As Walker recalls the experience, the scar tissue left her with the psychological trauma of feeling unattractive, isolated, and lonely. However, the turning point came when she decided to focus her attention outward, to observe people, to sharpen her sensitivity, her sensibilities, to the life around her. Walker recorded the tales of the grownups in the neighborhood and she made use of those stories in her later writings.
This same sense of urgency and isolation also provided the psychological context for her first book of poetry, Once. In Interviews With Black Writers, Walker recalls in detail her suicidal state and her desperate need to create which, ultimately,