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BACKGROUND INFORMATION - BIOGRAPHY
AUTHOR INFORMATION-ALICE WALKER
Alice Walker was born to a Georgia sharecropping family in 1944. At a young age, an accident seriously damaged her eye. As a result of her disfigurement, she became shy and reserved, suffering from low self-esteem. Walker compensated for what she thought was a lack of physical attractiveness with an intense interest in learning. She won a scholarship to Spelman College, a Black University in Atlanta, and then graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 1985. In 1968, she published a collection of poetry called Once: Poems.
Walker has written several novels, all of them combining the struggle for civil rights of Black citizens and the struggle for women's rights as equals in the African-American community and family. Her efforts to combine these two struggles have brought her heavy criticism. Embattled by racism, many Black critics and public figures have denounced her for calling attention to the internalized racism that feeds sexism in Black families.
Her first novel, The Third Life of Grange Copeland (1970), is a perfect example of the fine balance of the two struggles. It depicts the cycle of oppression of a sharecropping family. Children are oppressed and turn into oppressive adults. Men are oppressed by their white bosses and then turn around and oppress their wives. Walker, however, writes in her afterword that she believes people can be soul survivors; they can persevere despite hardship and prove the dignity of the human spirit. Her character Grange Copeland does just that.
Walker's second novel, Meridian, was published in 1976. It depicts a woman committed to the civil rights struggle in the South. Then in 1982, Walker published The Color Purple, a story of a Black woman who successfully finds herself after being oppressed by her father and her husband. A testament to the human spirit, the novel was received with great enthusiasm by critics.
Walker was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Literature for it in the same year it was published. The book also attracted the interest of director Steven Spielberg, who made it into a movie released in 1985 starring Danny Glover, Whoopie Goldberg, and Oprah Winfrey, among others. It shares the record as the most nominated film in Academy Award history to not win an award, with 11 nominations.
More recently, Walker has written poetry and published a collection of essays called Anything We Love Can Be Saved: A Writer's Activism.
For most of her adult life, Walker has been a tireless activist for the civil rights of African-Americans and Native Americans. She has also joined the fight against nuclear proliferation and environmental protection. In 1968, she married Mel Leventhal, a human rights lawyer, and they had a daughter, Rebecca; they were later divorced.
Currently she lives and writes in northern California.