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Alice Walker (Alice Malsenior Walker) Biography

(1944– ), (Alice Malsenior Walker), The Third Life of Grange Copeland, Freedomways

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American novelist, poet, and short-story writer, born in Eatonton, Georgia, educated at Spelman College and Sarah Lawrence College. After graduating from Sarah Lawrence College, where she wrote her first novel (The Third Life of Grange Copeland, 1970), Walker taught writing and African-American literature at Jackson State College and Tougaloo College in Mississippi. She has also taught at Wellesley College, the University of Massachusetts, and Yale University, as well as serving as an editor on Ms. magazine and Freedomways. During the summer of 1966 she was a volunteer on voter registration drives in Mississippi and she has made much of the interplay between her political, cultural, educational, and maternal experiences in her writings. One of the earliest short stories, ‘To Hell With Dying’, was published in the influential edition by Langston Hughes of African-American short stories, The Best Short Stories by Negro Writers (1967). Walker's first collection of short stories, In Love and Trouble (1973), helped establish her very considerable reputation in African-American literature; further collections include You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down (1981) and The Complete Stories (1994). Her second novel, Meridian (1976), draws on her experience of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. She is best known for The Color Purple (1982), for which she was the first African-American woman to receive a Pulitzer Prize. An epistolary novel set in the segregated South between the wars, it offers a haunting portrait of abuse and oppression. The novel became a bestseller and was filmed by Steven Spielberg in 1985. The Temple of My Familiar (1989), which contains some of her most impressive prose, traces a history of the dispossessed in epic form and is underpinned by her awareness of African-American spirituality. More recently she has published Possessing the Secret of Joy (1992), which examines the subject of female circumcision and is linked, through its characters, with The Color Purple. She has published several volumes of poetry, including Once: Poems (1968), Revolutionary Petunias and Other Poems (1973), Good Night, Willie Lee, I'll See You in the Morning (1979), Horses Make a Landscape Look More Beautiful (1984), and Her Blue Body Everything We Know: Earthling Poems 1965–1990 (1991). She defines her prose as ‘womanist’, stating, ‘Womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender’. Her essays have been collected in In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: Womanist Prose (1983) and Living by the Word: Selected Writings 1973–1987 (1988). I Love Myself When I Am Laughing … (1979) is her anthology of the writings of Zora Neale Hurston whom she cites as an influence on her work. See also ethnicity.

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