Alice Walker, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author
Alice Walker, author and activist, was the first African American to win the Pulitzer Prize in fiction for, "The Color Purple," a novel tackling issues of racism and violence against women.
Pulitzer Prize Winning Author
Alice Walker on living through poverty and racism; giving her ancestors a voice in "The Color Purple"; and the magic of art and life.
ALICE WALKER: My mother tells the story about me as a writer before I knew what a writer was. She said that she would miss me, and I would have crawled all around to the back of the house. And I would be sitting there with the Sear-Roebuck catalog, and I would be writing in the margins of it with a twig.
The sharecropping system was basically slavery with a new name. My parents milked the cows and took care of home dairy for the woman who owned the land. My mother planted so many flowers around our shack that it disappeared as a, shack and it became just an amazing place. So my sense of poverty was always seen through this screen of incredible ingenuity and artistic power.
When I went off to college, my father took me to the bus stop and I sat down in the front of the bus and there was a white woman who just went into a fit. So she complained to the driver, and he got up and he forced me to sit-in the back. I thought, OK, I can refuse and sit-in the front and I can be arrested in this little town, or I can stay on the bus, get to Atlanta, check into my college, and immediately join the movement for civil rights.
In most literature, the lives of the people that I knew did not exist. My mother, for instance, was nowhere in the literature, and she was all over my heart. So why shouldn't she be in literature? People like my parents and my grandparents, the stories that I heard about their younger years were riveting.
I started writing this novel longing to hear their speech. I was so determined to give them a voice, because if you deny people a voice, their own voice, there's no way you'll ever know who they were. And so they are erased. What I would like people to understand when they read The Color Purple is that there are all these terrible things that can actually happen to us, and yet life is so incredibly magical and abundant and present that we can still be very happy.