By the Book: Welcome Home, Alice

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– Photo by Ana Elena Pena –

Willie Lee and Minnie Talulah Grant could have never imagined this for their eighth child. Alice Malsenior Walker, born on Feb. 9, 1944, to a sharecropper existence in Putnam County, advanced through grit and talent to become a literary powerhouse, using a humbling existence in the segregated South as motivation to chronicle love, family, and the human condition in a way that, in 1983, earned her the Pulitzer Prize for fiction with her novel The Color Purple.

On Saturday, July 13, Alice Walker is coming home.

The writer, activist, poet, and essayist will be feted in a way that would have been inconceivable in her childhood.

“Part of what existence means to me is knowing the difference between what I am now and what I was then,” Walker wrote in In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens.

Then, she was the daughter of a seamstress and the valedictorian of Putnam County’s segregated Butler High School who was awarded and accepted a full scholarship to Spelman College in 1961.

Now? Here’s now. 

Walker’s work has been translated into more than two dozen languages and her books have sold more than 15 million copies. In 2001, she was inducted into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame and in 2006 she was the inaugural inductee into the California Hall of Fame. Emory University began compiling Walker’s personal and literary archives in 2007 and are cataloging her papers.

This year, she turns 75, and for her birthday celebration, Eatonton’s Georgia Writers Museum is welcoming Walker back to her hometown with an abundance of love and admiration.

“At one point I learned transcendental meditation. This was 30-something years ago. It took me back to the way that I naturally was as a child growing up way in the country, rarely seeing people. I was in that state of oneness with creation, and it was as if I didn’t exist except as part of everything,” Walker has said.

On July 13, Walker will be more than “part of everything.”

She will be all of everything.

Here’s how the day will unfold at The Plaza Arts Center in downtown Eatonton and other special venues throughout Putnam County.

• There will be a screening of the American Masters Documentary, “Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth,” followed by a discussion with filmmaker Pratibha Parmar and scholar Salamishah Tillet.

• Writers and artists will pay tribute to Walker with live readings and musical performances including award-winning playwright and novelist Pearl Cleage, New York Times best-selling author Tayari Jones, gospel violinist Melanie R. Hill, novelist Daniel Black, poet Kamilah Aisha Moon, Walker’s biographer Evelyn C. White, and Walker’s daughter Rebecca Walker, who is also a published writer and activist.

• There will be morning and afternoon bus tours of historic sites relevant to Walker’s time in Georgia including her childhood home, the place where she was struck and blinded by a BB shot into one eye, the high school where she began her notable academic career, and the Pex Theatre where Walker attended the release of the film adaptation of her novel, The Color Purple.

• Organizers have scheduled a cocktail reception, complete with a champagne toast and birthday cake cutting, followed by “Alice Walker in conversation with Valerie Boyd.” Boyd is the editor of Walker’s forthcoming journals.

Walker once wrote, “’Thank you’ is the best prayer that anyone could say. I say that one a lot. Thank you expresses extreme gratitude, humility, understanding.”

Thank you, Alice Walker.

For a complete itinerary and ticket information, visit alicewalker75.com.

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