Born in Eatonton, Georgia, on February 9, 1944, Alice Walker partly spent her life working as a teacher, lecturer and social worker but is primarily known as a writer today. Daughter to a maid and sister to 7 siblings, Walker spent her childhood with little money. She suffered a serious eye injury at the age of 8 by being shot by a BB pellet while playing with her brothers. A white scar around her right eye made her really self-conscious and led her to isolate herself from much of the world. However, she engaged herself in reading and writing poetry that soon became her source of enjoyment.
Till high school, Walker studied in a segregated institution and became the valedictorian of her batch. She then went to Spelman College in Atlanta having received a scholarship. Later, she transferred to New York where she studied at the Sarah Lawrence College. One of her years was spent in Africa as part of an exchange programme. 1965 marked an important year in her life as she graduated from college and also published her first short story.
Post-graduation, Walker worked as a teacher, lecturer and social worker. She fought for equal rights being given to African American and used the Civil Rights Movement as a medium to achieve this goal. In 1968, her first collection of poetry, Once, got published.
However, today she is primarily known for writing novels and her first work by the name of Third Life of Grange Copeland got published in 1970. She experimented with different types of writing ranging from short stories including In Love and Trouble to children’s books including Langston Hughes: American Poet. She also played a pivotal role in the Black Feminist Movement going on at the time. In 1983, she coined the term womanism to mean Black feminism.
She got married in 1967 to Melvyn Leventhal who was a lawyer and an activist. They had one daughter, Rebecca (born 1969). However, the couple got divorced in 1976.
She rose to fame in 1982 with her third novel, The Color Purple, which highlighted the struggles of an African American woman. The novel gained much praise from the critics and Walker was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award for Fiction in 1983. There have also been a film and a musical based on the novel. The Temple of My Familiar (1989) and Possessing the Secret of Joy (1992), are two of her other early works which gained much recognition.
In recent years, Walker has continued to establish herself as a versatile writer. In the period from 2004 to 2006, a lot of her work got worldwide recognition. In 2004, her novel, Now Is the Time to Open Your Heart, was published followed by a collection of essays in 2006 including We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For: Light in a Time of Darkness and There Is a Flower at the Tip of My Nose Smelling Me.
In 2010, she reestablished herself as a political activist through her written work. In Overcoming Speechlessness: A Poet Encounters the Horror in Rwanda, Eastern Congo and Palestine/Israel, the writer highlighted her engagement with the group Women for Women International.
Alice Walker’s most recent work includes the 2013 book called The Cushion in the Road. Another is a collection of poems known as The World Will Follow Joy Turning Madness into Flowers. Currently aged 71, Walker continues to impress the world with her marvelous writing skills and is renowned as one of the finest African American writers of all time.