Alice Walker won the Pulitzer Prize and the American Book Award for her third novel, “The Color Purple,” which was made into an internationally popular film by Steven Spielberg. Her other best-selling novels, which have been translated into more than two dozen languages, include “By the Light of My Father’s Smile,” “Possessing the Secret of Joy” and “The Temple of My Familiar.”
Her most recent novel, “Now Is the Time to Open Your Heart,” was published in 2004. Ms. Walker is also the author of several collections of short stories, essays and poems as well as children’s books. Her work has appeared in numerous national and international journals and magazines.
An activist and social visionary, Ms. Walker has been a participant in most of the major movements of planetary change, including the Human and Civil Rights Movement, the Hands Off Cuba Movement, and the Women’s Rights Movement. Her advocacy on behalf of the dispossessed has, in the words of her biographer, Evelyn C. White, “spanned the globe.”
Here, Alice talks about “The Color Purple,” the book, the movie and the play, which is back on Broadway with preview performances on Tuesday, November 10th at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre (242 West 45th Street). The show will officially open on Thursday, December 10th.
Kam Williams: Hi Alice, thanks for the interview. Congratulations on the 30th anniversary of the film and the 10th of the Broadway musical.
Alice Walker: Thanks, Kam.
KW: Here’s a question from reader Larry Greenberg: How did you originally feel about The Color Purple being adapted to film? Are there other works of yours that you would like to see on the silver screen?
AW: I was skeptical. I’d never seen a film out of Hollywood that had people of color in it that I respected absolutely.
KW: Robin Beckham would like to know whether you have plans to continue the story of Celie in a Color Purple 2?
AW: I prefer to write a family of novels, rather than “sequels.” In this case, “The Color Purple,” “The Temple of My Familiar,” and “Possessing The Secret Of Joy.”
KW: Reverend Florine Thompson says: You’re one of my all-time favorites. First of all, thank you for your leadership and for modeling strength and hope for women of the diaspora and African-American women in particular. You’re indeed one of my sheroes. What was the key motivation for The Color Purple?
AW: Love of my grandparents whose lives are honored in the novel. I lived with them when I was an 8 yar-old. It also intrigued me that my grandfather was married to my step-grandmother but loved someone else. I realized that many things change, but rarely the heart.
KW: Reverend Floraine Thompson: And lastly, what do you most want women in the diaspora to take away from your collection of essays, In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens?
AW: Whatever helps them grow closer to who they really are. Gathering up all their ancestral sorrows and joys and walking onward in appreciation and light. Having some sense of our freedoms being deeply longed for by countless generations of black women who possessed none of them.
KW: David Roth asks: As a longstanding activist against injustice, would you mind commenting on what I am just now coming to appreciate as an entrenched, structural, institutionalized and seemingly pertinacious racism in America–a bias built into our financial institutions [unequal access to capital], our political system [as reflected in the voting rights struggle], our criminal injustice system, our public school system, etcetera. How do we truly change the heart of our society?
AW: American society is incredibly twisted and unwell. At this point I would suggest withdrawing from it as much as possible. Psychically, we must find a way to raise our children in a better environment than American mainstream culture offers..
KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: Were Howard Zinn still alive, where in the world do you think the two of you would choose to make a dramatic statement on behalf of human rights?
AW: Palestine/Israel, hands down. The heartless repression happening there, the slaughter of innocents, cries out for a world response.
KW: Thanks again for the time, Alice, and best of luck with all your endeavors.
AW: THANK YOU, KAM.