THE LIFE of Alice Walker, born in the segregated South to sharecropper parents, is a lens through which a painful part of this country’s history can be closely observed. Walker’s life story has in many ways been a matter of public record. Her autobiographical essays have been widely published, and the video of her life (Alice Walker) is eye-opening for its depiction of the Jim Crow world of her childhood, where there were “whites-only” and “colored” drinking fountains, restrooms, and building entrances and exits.
While she reached the peak of her fame over twenty years ago with the publication of The Color Purple, and while many readers may not be able to recite the name of her latest novel (it’s Now Is the Time to Open Your Heart), Alice Walker is still hard at work, and still a force to be reckoned with. Journalist Evelyn C. White has produced the first major biography of the writer, and has successfully assembled the pieces of Walker’s life and related them to her literary output. Walker cooperated fully with White for this book, providing numerous interviews and unrestricted access to her papers and files, while not requesting manuscript approval (for which White lauds her subject as “an undiluted champion of artistic freedom”).