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Where to Start with Alice Walker

Alice Walker
Alice Walker signing autographs via State Library and Archives of Florida


February 9 is the birthday of Alice Walker, famed American novelist, short story writer, poet and activist. Her works in literature have brought her a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award, among many others—in fact, Walker made history as the first African American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for The Color Purple. Her work is realistic and filled with riveting imagery, painting a perfect picture for the reader. Across her writings are themes of activism, feminism, relationships, race relations, nature, and heritage.

Alice Walker is an American treasure and prolific literary icon, and if you'd like to join us in wishing her a happy birthday, then we'll help you figure out where to start with her work.

Fiction

The Color Purple

The Color Purple
This is arguably the most well-known novel written by Walker, and with good reason. Beautifully imagined and deeply compassionate, this is the story of two sisters—Nettie, a missionary in Africa, and Celie, a Southern woman married to a man she hates—who sustain their loyalty and trust in each other across time, distance, and silence. This classic novel of African literature is rich with passion, pain, inspiration, and an indomitable love of life. 

 

 

 

 

Meridian

Meridian
Meridian is a poignant and powerful story of the American South in the 1960s and of one woman who risks her life for the people she loves. Meridian Hill, a courageous young activist, creates peace and understanding by dedicating herself heart and soul to her civil rights work, touching the lives of all those she meets even when her health begins to deteriorate. With the old rules of Southern society collapsing around her, Meridian fights a lonely battle to reaffirm her own humanity, and that of all her people.

 

 

 

You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down

You Can' t Keep a Good Woman Down
Fourteen short stories about strong women through their struggles and joys.

 

 

 

 

 


 

Possessing the Secret of Joy

Possessing the Secret of Joy
After undergoing a brutal procedure of female genital mutilation in Africa, Tashi, a tribal African woman first glimpsed in The Color Purple, immigrates to the United States and, following her struggles to understand her past, eventually discovers the secret of joy.

 

 

 

 

 

Now Is the Time to Open Your Heart

Now Is the Time to Open Your Heart
A well-published, numerous-times-divorced woman leaves her lover to embark on a personal journey that begins on the Colorado River and traverses through her past and into her future, while her lover begins his own parallel voyage.

 

 


 

 

 

Nonfiction

In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens

In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens
What is a womanist? Alice Walker sets out to define the concept in this anthology of early essays and other nonfiction pieces. As she outlines it, a womanist is a person who prefers to side with the oppressed: with women, with people of color, with the poor. As a writer, Walker has always taken such people as her primary subjects, and her search for paths toward self-possession and freedom always holds out hope for the transformative power of compassion and love. Whether she's taking on nuclear proliferation, the promise and problems of the civil rights movement, or her own creative process, Walker always brings to bear a fearless determination to tell the truth.

 


 

The Way Forward is with a Broken Heart

The Way Forward is with a Broken Heart
The Way Forward is with a Broken Heart starts with a lyrical, autobiographical story of the breakdown of a marriage during the early years of the civil rights movement. Alice Walker then goes on to imagine stories that grew out of the life following that marriage. Filled with wonder at the capacity of humans to move through love and loss, this is an uplifting read that showcases the author's warmth, wit, and wisdom.

 

 

 

 

Living by the Word

Living by the Word
Walker meditates on planetary concerns as well as on feminist and political issues in this deeply spiritual work. She writes of our intimate connection with nature, focuses on racial quetions, reports on trips to China, Bali, and Jamaica, and much more.

 

 

 

 


Poetry

Revolutionary Petunias

Revolutionary Petunias and Other Poems
When Alice Walker published her collection of poems in 1976, she had spent the previous decade deeply immersed in the civil rights movement. In these verses are her most visceral reactions to a moment in history that would shape the country, and that she herself influenced through words and advocacy. In hymns to ancestors, passionate polemics, and laments for lost possibilities, Walker addresses the problems of the past while keeping an eye on the possibilities of the future. Even in the midst of the call for change, these poems reveal a deep yearning for individual connection to others, as well as a deeply personal connection to nature.



 

A Poem Traveled Down My Arm

A Poem Traveled Down My Arm
In this illuminating book, Walker reveals her remarkable philosophy of life. A Poem Traveled Down My Arm is a collection of insights and drawings that are by turns charming and humorous, provocative and profound, and represent the wisdom of one of today's most beloved writers. The essence of Walker's independent spirit emanates from words and images that are simple but deep in meaning. 

 

 

 

 

Children's

Finding the Green Stone

Finding the Green Stone
After saying unkind things to family and friends, Johnny loses both his green stone and his interest in life, and he recovers them only when he discovers love in his heart.

 

 

 


 

 

There Is a Flower at the Tip of My Nose Smelling Me

There Is a Flower at the Tip of My Nose Smelling Me
In a beautifully poetic and gently provocative text, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker invites readers young and old to see the world—and our place in it—through new eyes.

 

 

 


 

 American Poet

Langston Hughes: American Poet
An illustrated biography of the Harlem poet whose works gave voice to the joy and pain of the black experience in America.

 

 

 

 

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Have trouble reading standard print? Many of these titles are available in formats for patrons with print disabilities.

Staff picks are chosen by NYPL staff members and are not intended to be comprehensive lists. We'd love to hear your ideas too, so leave a comment and tell us what you’d recommend. And check out our Staff Picks browse tool for more recommendations!

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