Critical Insights: Alice Walker
A great starting point for students seeking an introduction to Walker and the critical discussions surrounding her work.
Alice Walker's works are more relevant today than ever. With war, climate change, economic crisis, failures in public education, racism, sexism, and homophobia still part of current events, Walker represents not only a creative writer but an activist engaged in the causes threaded throughout her writing. With her words Walker has created lyrical spaces in which disparate personalities and cultures join to make something new; where the past is a key to the future, and where women and men question themselves, their history, what they've been told, winnowing "fact" from reality. Her characters fight battles familiar to all of us, yet their stories hold out a perspective that is new, mature, uniquely spiritual and all-embracing, and undoubtedly humanist.
Edited by Nagueyalti Warren, Senior Lecturer and Director of Undergraduate Studies, Department of African American Studies, Emory University, this volume in the Critical Insights series presents a variety of new essays on the American writer. For readers who are studying Walker for the first time, a biographical sketch relates the details of her life and four essays survey the critical reception of Walker's work, explore its cultural and historical contexts, situate Walker among her contemporaries, and review key themes in her work. Readers seeking a deeper understanding of the writer can then move on to other essays that explore topics like Walker's symbolism, metaphysics, and aesthetics; her views on feminism (or, in her own words, womanism), faith and religion; her responses to the issues of her own day as well as American, and specifically Southern history, like politics, slavery, poverty, and sexism. Works discussed include long fiction such as Meridian, The Color Purple, The Third Life of Grange Copeland, Possessing the Secret of Joy, and The Temple of My Familiar; nonfiction from In Search of Our Mother's Gardens; as well as well selections of Walker's short stories and poetry. Among the contributors are Rudolph Byrd, Gerri Bates, Lillie Howard, Sally Wolff, Carmen Gillespie, and Brenda Young.
Rounding out the volume are a chronology of Walker's life and a list of her principal publications as well as a bibliography for readers seeking to study this fascinating author in greater depth.
Each essay is 2,500 to 5,000 words in length, and all essays conclude with a list of "Works Cited," along with endnotes. Finally, the volume's appendixes offer a section of useful reference resources:
- A chronology of the author's life
- A complete list of the author's works and their original dates of publication
- A general bibliography
- A detailed paragraph on the volume's editor
- Notes on the individual chapter authors
- A subject index