Alice Walker is an internationally celebrated, prolific writer, poet and activist whose books include seven novels, four collections of short stories, four children’s books, and volumes of essays and poetry.
Please note: this event will be held in Benaroya Hall’s S. Mark Taper Auditorium.
Walker’s third and most well-known novel, The Color Purple, won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award in 1983, making Walker the first Black woman to win both honors. The Color Purple has since been adapted for the silver screen and the Broadway stage.
Walker’s list of bestsellers also includes The Temple of My Familiar (1989), By the Light of My Father’s Smile (1998), and Possessing the Secret of Joy (1992) which was released to great acclaim and controversy for its exploration of the effects of female genital mutilation. Although her work often focuses on gender and sexuality through a feminist lens, Walker considers herself a “Womanist,” a self-coined term that differs from “feminist,” referring instead to “someone who appreciates women’s culture, emotions, and character.” (Poetry Foundation). Walker’s later work includes several meditations on spirituality and current events including Now Is the Time to Open Your Heart (2004) and We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For (2006).
Although Walker dabbled in poetry throughout her career, beginning with her first collection Once in 1968, she returned to the genre in earnest after hearing of the September 11 terrorist attacks. At the time, Walker had taken what she thought was a permanent hiatus from writing, wanting to devote her time to studying Tibetan Buddhism and exploring the Amazon. The tragedy brought her back to writing, and she published her collection Absolute Trust in the Goodness of the Earth in 2003. Her forthcoming book of poems, Taking the Arrow Out of the Heart, is a timely collection of nearly 70 works of passionate, powerful free verse in both Spanish and English. The collection bears witness to our troubled times, while also chronicling Walker’s well-lived life. From poems of painful self-inquiry, to celebrating the simple beauty of baking frittatas, Walker offers us a window into her magical, at times difficult, and liberating world of activism, love, hope and, above all, gratitude.
Walker’s work has been translated into more than two dozen languages, and her books have sold more than fifteen million copies. Along with the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, Walker has been awarded fellowships from The Radcliffe Institute, the Ingram Merrill Foundation, and the Guggenheim Foundation. She is the recipient of the Rosenthal Award from the National Institute of Arts & Letters, and the Lillian Smith Award from the National Endowment for the Arts. Walker was inducted into the Writers Hall of Fame in her home state of Georgia in 2001, and was one of the first inductees into the California Hall of Fame in The California Museum for History, Women, and the Arts in 2006. In 2010, she presented the keynote address at the 11th Annual Steve Biko Lecture at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and she was awarded the LennonOno Peace Grant in Reykjavik, Iceland. Walker donated the award to an orphanage for the children of AIDS victims in East Africa.