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Alice Walker: A Life Hardcover – September 1, 2004

4.4 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this vibrant narrative, White strives to go beyond simply mapping the movements and accomplishments of the first black female Pulitzer Prize winner. While White relies heavily on interviews with Alice Walker (b. 1944), her family and friends, the stories are always told in a historical context. Walker's childhood as a daughter of Georgia sharecroppers is framed by what it meant to be a poor black female in the Jim Crow South. White particularly focuses on an accident that transforms the eight-year-old Walker from talkative and precocious to introverted and sad. Walker was shot with a BB gun and left disfigured and blind in one eye, and her father was refused a ride to transport the injured girl into town and swindled out of $250 by a white doctor. These events, according to White, brought the young Walker to a new level of understanding of the inhumanity of Southern racism and later moved her to search and reveal, through her writings, the depths of human suffering. This understanding also drove Walker to become active in various causes, most notably the Civil Rights and black feminist movements. From beginning to end, White (The Black Women's Health Book), in her first biography, meticulously traces and analyzes the stages of Walker's life, emphasizing the impact on and importance of her literature in American culture.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Walker's probing writing and serene manner have been a fixture on the literary scene for decades. White traces the roots of that serenity and probing spirit in this penetrating look at a woman who rose from a family of Georgia sharecroppers to an esteemed career in literature. A childhood accident blinded Walker in one eye, setting her on an approach to a life of close observation. Stifled by the rigidity of Spellman, Walker moved on to Sarah Lawrence, and eventually became a civil rights volunteer in the cauldron of racial tension that was Mississippi in the 1960s. Drawing on interviews with Walker, her family, friends, lovers, and colleagues, White chronicles Walker's illegal abortion, interracial marriage, bisexual and multiracial relationships, abiding championing of women's causes, and support of black women writers, notably Zora Neale Hurston. Walker paid a personal and professional price for eschewing the orthodoxy of race and sex, primarily following the uproar attending the publication of The Color Purple. Admirers of Alice Walker's honesty, integrity, and talent will love this book. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 538 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (September 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393058913
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393058918
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.5 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,468,367 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Minus the footnotes, this book has approximately 450 pages of text. I was expecting to read this during winter break because I couldn't possibly read it outside of off-time. However, once I started, I couldn't put it down. It just took a few days to breeze through.

Whether you love or hate her, Alice is a powerhouse. Even outside of the book and film The Color Purple, she invented the term "womanist", she fought female genital mutilation, she revived Zora Neale Hurston. Alice is a major player in the history of African-American women. In fact, this book tells even more. She taught the first college course on black female authors in the country. Langston Hughes and James Baldwin sought her out, as opposed to the other way around. One of the reasons that I couldn't put the book down is because every 10 pages something would come up that I would find fascinating and feel that I was a better person for having known about. Sometimes this book is a little gushy, but that's not surprising since Miss Alice is a born genius. Maybe this is just a result of the biographer really enjoying her subject.

The biographer took ten years to create this book. Sometimes I think journalists should stick to articles rather than books, but Evelyn White is an exception to my rule. In fact, I think her journalism background helped to make the book move quickly. I worship Frida Kahlo, but it's taking me forever to wade through Herrera's definitive biography on her. White saved me and other readers from that challenge here. She makes a point of letting people know that Gwendolyn Brooks is the first black woman to win a Pulitzer, not Alice. She is a cool sista that all readers should keep their eyes on.

This book can be disheartening.
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Format: Hardcover
Well now, here I am on page 316 of this biography, over 100 pages to go, yet I felt compelled to scream, shout and holler about it! Evelyn C. White's expertly crafted, brilliant portrayal has lifted me up in much the same way that Alice Walker's poems, essays, and novels send me soaring.It is a celebration of not only Alice Walker's genius, but an affirmation of many unheralded black women writers as well. While riding a crowded subway, I found myself scraping the bottom of my purse for a scrap of paper in which to jot down the names of authors and works that I've overlooked, forgotten about, and/or never heard of. What an absolute JOY! Throughout this biography, I am reminded of why Alice Walker's work is so important, so necessary. I am astounded by her courage and bravery and genorosity. Where in the world would we be without an Alice Walker? Now, I must press on and finish the book, though I am conflicted--I don't know whether to go slowly to savor every single sentence and stretch out my experience for a few more days, or to hurry up so I can bask in the feeling of being utterly inspired.
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Format: Hardcover
This is really more of an acclamation than a review. It is simply the most inspirational book I have ever read. It deeply and personally touched me on so many levels and recalled many memories of my own life and childhood.

I became aware of Ms. Walker with "The Color Purple" and loved it but had never read any of her other work and did not know much else about her life. Ms. White clearly shows her to be a woman of uncommon intellect, divine talent, genuine

compassion and sterling integrity.

After reading the book I recommended it to everybody I knew because I thought it was so powerful in its message and lesson about struggle, redemption and the power of love.

It also rekindled my desire to become a serious and successful writer.

It is truly phenomenal!

Michael Sainte-Andress
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Format: Hardcover
Inadequate. Superficial. Fawning. Sycophantic. And did I mention inadequate? Though very readable, with some interesting information about one of the most courageous and innovative writers of our time, this boot-licking "literary" biography does not do justice to Walker. White uses the book as a forum for sarcastic attacks on anyone who has ever disagreed with Walker or written a negative review of her work. Walker is an intelligent woman, a writer who takes chances in her life and in her works, who uses her writing to challenge many aspects of society. White seems to take more offense than Walker, unless we are not hearing the whole truth about Walker's reactions to her critics, when reviewers, critics, black male writers and others attack Walker's work.If everyone took Walker's writing with serene equanimity, she would not be doing her job, but she is surely not a candidate for the sainthood White would bestow on her. When several of Walker's personal, mentoring, and business relationships falter, White invariably blames the other party and pictures Walker as rising calmly above the fray. Can the woman, fine writer or not, really be that icily aloof or that innocent? Further, the biography barely covers Walker's life after publication and filming of The Color Purple, as though her important work ended there. And to nitpick a bit, I got very tired of paragraphs beginning with "To be sure..." I can only think that the enthusiasm other reviewers have expressed for this work is really respect for Walker and her work.
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