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In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: Womanist Prose (1983)

de Alice Walker

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1,252812,321 (4.14)38
In this, her first collection of nonfiction, the author speaks out as a Black woman, writer, mother, and feminist in thirty-six pieces ranging from the personal to the political. Among the contents are essays about other writers, accounts of the civil rights movement of the 1960s and the antinuclear movement of the 1980s, and a vivid memoir of a scarring childhood injury and her daughter's healing words.… (més)
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Such an inclusive and intimate collection of essays from the Alice Walker of the 70s, where she relays her own childhood and life experiences as a Black girl and women to the racism and colourism of her days (which I feel is still relevant to now); and admires the survival of Black creativity and art, while mourning the lost works of art that had to lie dormant beneath the struggle to survive; and expounds the necessity for a continuity and history of Black artists for future Black artists, and an appreciation for what the Black art that did survive while acknowledging their own inherited subconscious biases.

Another thing I really appreciated is how frequently Walker champions and references Black writers throughout these essays. It was clear how important Walker felt that future Black writers should know the genealogy of the family tree of Black writers. If I recall correctly, Zora Neale Hurston is really only nowadays still in literary consciousness due to Walker's efforts, and it makes me despair how many ZNHs remain unacknowledged and forgotten.

Aside: Reading this collection also gave me an odd jarring experience when I remembered Walker's more recent anti-Semitism, when the Walker of 1983 actively denounced such abhorrent behaviour.

What happened in those thirty-odd years? Walker had already been divorced from her civil rights lawyer husband who was Jewish for some years pre-83 and also their daughter is Jewish. How do they feel about her spouting these personally hateful views? How do readers themselves feel when a writer who has brought the world such a beautiful shared experience engages in such public hate?

It seems no longer an option to separate the art from the artist, with the extra onus being put upon the reader to be constantly engaged, to acknowledge or maybe even justify, and perhaps eventually to pinpoint their own breaking point. There's no perfection in the art and the artist as one, nor should there be an expectation of it, but seeing as art itself doesn't happen in a vacuum, I feel it's better and more important to accept the artist as part and parcel of their art, than to separate and ignore. ( )
  kitzyl | Jul 2, 2020 |
Really loved this when I read it in my early thirties. In fact, I think I want to go back and read it again. ( )
  Kim_Sasso | Mar 14, 2018 |
Alice Walker is a formidable novelist and "theologian" in her own right [write / rite / rights]. She is also infamous for defining "Womanist", and for resurrecting the treasure trove of Zora Neale Hurston, whose anthropology novels had been deliberately subordinated. In this "Search", Walker provides perspective on that discovery. It is a brilliant unfolding of stories within stories--gems poking out from the vein of treasure in the cordillera of literature. Walker steps boldly into authentic theology with the first Chapter--"Saving the Life that is your own". She begins by recounting the letter written by an obscure French painter to another. Within six months, the writer put paint to canvas, fell into depression, mutilated his ear, and destroyed his life "behind a pile of manure in the yard". Knowing the story, the message of the letter itself jumps off the page. She presents the "salvation" model of caring, and explains Why. This is robust Theology.
Walker also answers questions often put to her, by telling stories that reflect on the "Southern experience" she shares with other writers. Her sketches are the "anatomically correct" perspective needed for reading literature. For example, noting the fact that the writings of white male racist Faulkner are well-known, a rich legacy of black writers remains--"continues"--to be subordinated. However, this book is not bitter, and is whine-free. She mirrors the "advantageous heritage" bequeathed to Southerners, and to those of color whose morals, achievements and intelligence far exceeds those who claim to be entitled or "superior". In her words, "We inherit a great responsibililty as well, for we must give voice to centuries not only of silent bitterness and hate but also of neighborly kindness and sustaining love." The volume is a resource for those who are building and repairing the Kin-dom of god on Earth. ( )
  keylawk | Aug 26, 2017 |
We have all pretty much seen the movie. However, the book was far more detailed oriented.

A collection of letters detailing the life of Ciele. This book was an excellent read. A tear jerker for sure. I could not stop reading it once I picked it up. The interaction and growth of all the characters was very well written.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone reading it. I do not want to give spoilers here other than, if you think you know the whole story by watching the movie? You are missing out on all the tiny details if you do not read this book. ( )
  DVerdecia | Jan 29, 2016 |
Essays
  Buecherei.das-Sarah | Nov 27, 2014 |
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To my daughter Rebecca who saw in me what I considered a scar And redefined it as a world.
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There is a letter Vincent Van Gogh wrote to Emile Bernard that is very meaningful to me.
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I had that wonderful feeling writers get sometimes, not very often, of being WITH a great many people, ancient spirits, all very happy to see me consulting and acknowledging them, and eager to let me know, through the joy of their presence, that, indeed, I am not alone. [13]
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In this, her first collection of nonfiction, the author speaks out as a Black woman, writer, mother, and feminist in thirty-six pieces ranging from the personal to the political. Among the contents are essays about other writers, accounts of the civil rights movement of the 1960s and the antinuclear movement of the 1980s, and a vivid memoir of a scarring childhood injury and her daughter's healing words.

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