Alice Malsenior Walker (born February 9, 1944) is an American author, self-declared feminist and womanist - the latter a term she herself coined to make special distinction for the experiences of women of color. She has written at length on issues of race and gender, and is most famous for the critically acclaimed novel The Color Purple, for which she won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
But I felt in Georgia and on the east coast generally very squeezed. People have so many hang-ups about how other people live their lives. People always want to keep you in a little box or they need to label you and fix you in time and location. I feel a greater fluidity here. People are much more willing to accept that nothing is permanent, everything is changeable so there is freedom and I do need to live where I can be free.|20|20|Alice Walker, interview with The Observer in 2001|
In her book Alice Walker: A Life, author Evelyn C. White talks about an incident when Walker, who was eight years old at the time, was injured when her brother accidentally shot her in the eye with a BB gun. She became blind in her right eye as a result. In the book, White suggests this event had a large impact on Walker, especially when a white doctor in town swindled her parents out of $250 they paid to repair her injury. Walker refers to this incident in her book Warrior Marks, a chronicle of female genital mutilation in Africa, and uses it to illustrate the sacrificial marks women bear that allow them to be "warriors" against female suppression.
In 1965, Walker met and later married Mel Leventhal, a Jewish civil rights lawyer. They became the first legally married inter-racial couple in Mississippi. This brought them a steady stream of harassment and even murderous threats from the Ku Klux Klan. The couple had a daughter, Rebecca in 1969, but divorced eight years later, in 1977.
In addition to her collected short stories and poetry, Walker's first novel, The Third Life of Grange Copeland, was published in 1970. In 1976, Walker's second novel, Meridian, was published. The novel dealt with activist workers in the South during the civil rights movement, and closely paralleled some of Walker's own experiences.
In 1982, Walker would publish what has become her best-known work, the novel The Color Purple. The story of a young black woman fighting her way through not only racist white culture but patriarchal black culture was a resounding commercial success. The book became a bestseller and was subsequently adapted into a critically acclaimed 1985 movie as well as a 2005 Broadway musical play.
Walker has written several other novels, including The Temple of My Familiar and Possessing the Secret of Joy (which featured several characters and descendants of characters from The Color Purple) and has published a number of collections of short stories, poetry, and other published work.
Her works typically focus on the struggles of African Americans, particularly women, and their struggle against a racist, sexist, and violent society. Her writings also focus on the role of women of color in culture and history. Walker is a respected figure in the liberal political community for her support of unconventional and unpopular views as a matter of principle.
Additionally, Walker has published several short stories, including the 1973 "Everyday Use: for your grandmama." This story contains Walker's traditional subjects of feminism and racism against African Americans.
Musician/Comedian Reggie Watts is Walker's second cousin.
Walker discussed her love affair with singer-songwriter Tracy Chapman in a December 2006 interview with The Guardian, explaining why they did not go public with their relationship, saying "[the relationship] was delicious and lovely and wonderful and I totally enjoyed it and I was completely in love with her but it was not anybody's business but ours."
In 1997 she was honored by the American Humanist Association as "Humanist of the Year"
She has also received a number of other awards for her body of work, including:
On December 6, 2006, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and First Lady Maria Shriver inducted Alice Walker into the California Hall of Fame located at The California Museum for History, Women, and the Arts.
She opened her own bookstore with all her books in it in 2005.