Winner of the 1982 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the American Book Award for her novel The Color Purple, Alice Walker is indisputably one of the leading figures of contemporary African American literature. Author of four novels, two collections of short stories, two collections of essays, and four volumes of poetry, Walker writes of African American women's discovery of their inner selves, selves from which they draw the strength necessary for survival. Drawing on her own background as the daughter of Georgia sharecroppers, Walker has in her works given voice to previously invisible poor rural black women. The overwhelming theme of Walker's work is survival, the survival of the whole self. Walker's personal odyssey, from her southern rural roots, to Sarah Lawrence College (where she came near the brink of suicide), to her discovery of inner peace through self-knowledge and rootedness in the tradition that bore her, informs all of her work. Her central characters, like Walker herself, come to recognize and acknowledge the divine both within themselves and in every thing in the universe. In this study, Donna Haisty Winchell provides a comprehensive study of Walker's entire body of work, including her poetry (often neglected in other critical works), and her most recent novel The Temple of My Familiar. Combining biographical information with critical analysis of Walker's works, Winchell provides a sensitive and insightful overview of this important writer's canon. Her study will be must reading for everyone interested in contemporary American literature, and a necessity for school and college library collections.
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