Thursday, May 9, 2013

May is Short Story Month - Alice Walker

May is Short Story Month and our author for today is Alice Walker. Walker is most famous for The Color Purple (1982), which won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in 1983. It was later made into an acclaimed film starring Whoopie Goldberg, Danny Glover and Margaret Avery, as well as Oprah Winfrey's first role. It was later a Broadway musical.

Ms. Walker is a novelist, short story writer, poet and activist. Born in Georgia in 1944, her father was a sharecropper and her mother a maid. The plantation owner once told her mother, Minnie Lou Walker, that black children didn't need an education and why wasn't little Alice in the fields? Minnie Lou enrolled Walker in the first grade at the age of four. So there. Her parents worked like crazy people to put Alice through college, first at Spelman in Atlanta and then at Sarah Lawrence in New York. Her activism was encouraged by Howard Zinn who taught at Sarah Lawrence. If you aren't familiar with Howard Zinn, please immediately buy A People's History of the United States. You have reading to do.

Graduating in 1965, Walker returned to the South to register voters and work in children's programs in Mississippi. She credits her return to the South to Dr. King who she met while at Spelman. She married Melvyn Rosenman Leventhal in 1967 in New York City. They subsequently became the first legally-married interracial couple in Mississippi. They were, of course, harassed by the KKK (I will not link to them). The couple was later divorced and Ms. Walker was romantically linked with singer-songwriter Tracy Chapman. There is so much I've had to omit from this bio in the interests of time and space; please read the entire bio at the link above. Such a fascinating life so far, it is well worth your time.

Walker's first book of poetry was published when she was a senior at Sarah Lawrence and her first novel, The Third Life of Grange Copeland, was published in 1975. Also in 1975, she became an editor at Ms. Magazine and is credited for reviving interest in one of her strongest influences, Zora
Neale Hurston. She and a fellow writer discovered Ms. Hurston's unmarked grave in Florida and bought a headstone to mark her resting place. As it happens, my women's international book group at Goodreads will be reading Their Eyes Were Watching God by Ms. Hurston as our June pick. In 2007, Walker gave her papers to Emory University. See here for a complete bibliography and list of awards. These awards include a LennonOno Grant for Peace.

The author's web site, Alice Walker's Garden, is here. Walker is very active in Code Pink. Please see her essay "We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For" in regard to her anti-war demonstrations during the Iraq war.

Our story today is "Everyday Use," from You Can't Keep A Good Woman Down.

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