Alice Walker

American author and activist (1944- )

Alice Malsenior Walker (born 9 February 1944) is an American author whose novel, The Color Purple, won both the Pulitzer Prize and the American Book Award.

The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any.


  • The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for whites or women for men.
    • Foreword to The Dreaded Comparison: Animal Slavery and Human Slavery (1996) by Marjorie Spiegel, p. 14.
  • He has told me he likes men as well as he likes women, which seems only natural, he says, since he is the offspring of two sexes as well as two races. No one is surprised he is biracial; why should they be surprised he is bisexual? This is an explanation I have never heard and cannot entirely grasp; it seems too logical for my brain.
  • I felt in Georgia and on the east coast generally very squeezed. People have so many hang-ups about how other people live their lives. People always want to keep you in a little box or they need to label you and fix you in time and location. I feel a greater fluidity here. People are much more willing to accept that nothing is permanent, everything is changeable so there is freedom and I do need to live where I can be free.
  • The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any.
    • As quoted in The Best Liberal Quotes Ever : Why the Left is Right (2004) by William P. Martin, p. 173.
  • I want a grown-up attitude to Cuba, for instance, a country and people I love. I want an end to the war immediately, and I want the soldiers to be encouraged to destroy their weapons and drive themselves out of Iraq. I want the Israeli government to be made accountable for its behaviour to the Palestinians, and I want the people of the US to cease acting as if they don't understand what is going on. But most of all I want someone with the confidence to talk to anyone, "enemy" or "friend", and this Obama has shown he can do.
  • Us sing and dance, make faces and give flower bouquets, trying to be loved. You ever notice that trees do everything to get attention we do, except walk?
  • They calls me yellow like yellow be my name. They calls me yellow like yellow be my name. But if yellow is a name Why aint black the same. Well, if I say Hey black girl Lord, she try to ruin my game.
  • I don’t know nothing, I think. And glad of it.
  • The little I knew about my own self wouldn’t have filled a thimble!
  • Niggers going to Africa, he said to his wife. Now I have seen everything.
  • We know a roofleaf is not Jesus Christ, but in its own humble way, is it not God?
  • The world is changing, I said. It is no longer a world just for boys and men.
  • I think Africans are very much like white people back home, in that they think they are the center of the universe and that everything that is done is done for them.
  • I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.
  • I think us here to wonder, myself. To wonder. To ast. And that in wondering bout the big things and asting bout the big things, you learn about the little ones, almost by accident. But you never know nothing more about the big things than you start out with. The more I wonder, he say, the more I love.
  • But please remember, especially in these times of group-think and the right-on chorus, that no person is your friend (or kin) who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow and be perceived as fully blossomed as you were intended.

Quotes about Alice Walker

  • Today, great writers from minority groups in the U.S. are finding their voice in the wonderful, rich imagery of magic realism. Writers such as Louise Erdrich, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, and Amy Tan all have a unique, rich way of writing that can be described as magic realism. These women are among those who have broken away from the style of writing that defines most of the fiction coming from industrialized countries: that pragmatic, minimalist style and way of facing reality in which the only things one dares talk about are those things one can control. What cannot be controlled is denied.
  • There are some young Black women, however, that I particularly want to talk about, younger than I in any case, young Black women who are writing, who are inspirational to me...I'm impressed certainly with Alice Walker.
  • I loved The Color Purple. The movie disappointed me because so many people I do love were bowled over by it. I felt it was a romantic treatment that perhaps could have been dealt with more honestly.
  • This ninny [referring to one particularly hostile black author] implied that The Color Purple would absolutely destroy black Americans. But it's interesting that we've survived rapes, slavery, ridicule, abuse, discrimination and you tell us we are so weak that a book is going to destroy us. Please!
  • I loathe the misogynist assumption that a woman’s faults must be the direct result of a man’s actions, but I find myself incapable of separating Walker’s fraught marriage from her hatred of Judaism. She doesn’t separate the two either. In her 2014 book, The Cushion in the Road, Walker writes about meeting an elderly Palestinian woman in the Occupied Territories. The woman accepted a gift from Walker, and then bestowed a blessing upon her, “May God protect you from the Jews,” to which Walker responded, “It’s too late, I already married one”...I wonder how Walker could put the burden of her trauma onto us — black Jewish women. What is her responsibility to her daughter, and what is my responsibility to Alice Walker? Many of my black and Jewish friends refuse to even judge her. Perhaps it is I who know nothing, nothing at all. I know that I will not cancel Alice Walker. I can’t erase the incredible work she created. I will continue to read The Color Purple and her other works. But I will never be able to rid myself of the ghost of this poem. It would be irresponsible and self-hating of me to do so. I will read and teach Walker’s work with love, but this poem will always be there, fluttering in the wind like a torn-out page of the Talmud.
  • Perhaps, just as Alice Walker writes of her own forebears in her essay "In Search of Our Mother's Gardens," my blood ancestors-unlike my literary ancestors-were so weather-beaten, terror-stricken, and maimed that they were stifled. As a result, those who somehow managed to create became, in my view, martyrs and saints. "Instead of being perceived as whole persons," wrote Walker, "their bodies became shrines: what was thought to be their minds became temples suitable for worship. These crazy 'Saints' stared out at the world, wildly, like lunatics-or quietly, like suicides; and the 'God' that was in their gaze was as mute as a great stone."
  • To me, the great writers who come from ethnic minorities writing in English come from America. I think the deep, the real deep thinkers now writing in the English language are the black women, such as Toni Morrison, Gloria Naylor, Alice Walker, etc. (F.J.: Where they are using black English in a certain kind of way to signify their difference?) Emecheta: Exactly.
    • Buchi Emecheta In Interviews with Writers of the Post-Colonial World edited by Feroza Jussawalla and Reed Way Dasenbrock (1992)
  • My ambition has long been sharpened by Alice Walker, willing to tell the stories of black women without apology, willing to write politically without apology—Possessing the Secret of Joy, a haunting, gorgeous novel about female genital mutilation that keeps me transfixed and heartbroken and helpless each time I read it, because sometimes the only way to tell the truth is to tell a story.
  • one of the things that guided how I was thinking about the ending was this Alice Walker quote, where she’s talking about writing The Color Purple and about what a radical act it is to give certain characters a happier, peaceful ending.
  • writing has changed me. And there is the powerful need we all have to tell a story, each of us with a piece of the whole pattern to complete. As Alice Walker says, We are all telling part of the same story, and as Sharon Olds has said, Every writer is a cell on the body politic of America.
  • (Q:The Woman Warrior opens with your mother saying "You must not tell anyone what I'm about to tell you," and then you proceed to do just that. Why do you begin with this particular scene?") Kingston: There has to be a way into the story. And there are obstacles in the way, including orders from one's own mother not to tell. So I thought if I began the book stating what that order was, I could confront it directly and disobey the order. And in that way I could free myself and my voice to be able to tell the story. Since writing that I've seen that there are other people who use this same technique. Alice Walker begins The Color Purple: "You better not never tell nobody but God." Toni Morrison begins The Bluest Eye: "Quiet as it's kept"-then proceeds to tell the community's secrets.
  • there are plenty of black men and Asian men who love Alice Walker's work. And they love my work. And there isn't even a battle going on. It's Ishmael Reed all by himself. It's Frank Chin all by himself. But the press plays it up as if it's all these Asian men against me.
  • Over and over again, we find women directed toward the loom, the shuttle, the distaff, the embroidery frame rather than the pen. Many of them heeded these calls: the artful textiles, the glorious quilts, the richly varied embroideries, the fancywork that decorated churches and homes, all testify to the flourishing creativity of women. And, as Alice Walker reminded us, the creation of gardens was, for many women, a form of art.
  • I connected with Alice Walker in Tougaloo. She wrote me in '68. There was like an underground of Black poets that existed during the '60s, which we all knew.
    • 1984 interview in Conversations with Audre Lorde (2004)
  • Look at how many Black Lesbian writers there are whose names are not known. Why isn't Gloria Hull a household name because of the research she's done on women of the Harlem Renaissance? What about Pat Parker? She's a really powerful poet. Norton is probably one of the finest poetry publishers in this country but I'm only one Black dyke and I'm greedy. I want more of us read and seen. Alice Walker is not a Lesbian. She has made very positive and sympathetic statements of "solidarity" with Lesbian sisters but she has made it perfectly clear that she is not a Lesbian and I think that's a real factor in her acceptability.
  • How do you think I feel when I hear Alice Walker say "Black feminism sounds like some kind of spray!"? I feel really sad. It hurts me, but it hurts me for Alice too, because I hear her testifying against herself in a way that is painful, and because she does it in a way that also testifies against me. All the time Black women are surrounded by forces that attempt to make us speak out against each other, and all of us have had the experience of opening our mouth and having a frog jump out, but we also have to realize that we are responsible for our own frogs. I know Alice would not attack other Black women in a white women's forum, so I would like to presume that it was not meant as an attack. But the fact remains it was heard as an attack upon Black feminism by many, and it was a very demoralizing statement.
    • 1988 interview in Conversations with Audre Lorde (2004)
  • Many of us recently discovered that the famous black American novelist Alice Walker is anti-Semitic. We also learned that a lot of people have known this for a long time. The writer and professor Roxane Gay tweeted on December 17 that Walker "has been anti-Semitic for years" and she brings it up at all of the events she discusses her admiration for Walker's novel Possessing the Secret of Joy. What Gay knew, and what became widely known this weekend due to a New York Times Review interview with Walker, is that she is a huge fan of a British "professional" conspiracy theorist named David Icke.
  • I think that the first book that made me think that I could try to be a writer – or that made me aware that a young black woman from the South could write about the South — was Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, which I read for the first time when I was in junior high. Because I saw something of – not myself – but the experience of the people around me reflected in that book, because it’s set in the rural South and these people are poor, and just seeing that she could do that made me think, ‘Maybe I could do that.’ It just made me realize that it might be possible.
  • White feminism is so distasteful that many women of color want nothing to do with the feminist label, period. Alice Walker devised the term womanism to define her love of Black womanhood and a commitment to improved lives for all people oppressed due to race or class.
  • I was teaching a course in Russian history, and I thought I would jazz it up a little. It was art, literature, it had students read Russian literature, and Alice didn't say anything in class. And then the first papers came in, and she wrote this paper on Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, and I read the paper-well, I showed it to a colleague of mine. This is sort of an inside thing about the academic world, I have a lot of inside things of the academic world, and this colleague of mine-as you can see, I'm not letting Alice say anything-I showed it to a colleague of mine, and with that professorial arrogance, he said, "She couldn't have written it."...He said, "Somebody else must have written this." I said, "No, you're wrong. There's nobody around that can write like this." That was our introduction.
    • Howard Zinn 1996 interview in The World Has Changed: Conversations with Alice Walker (2010)
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