Alice Walker’s Terrible Anti-Semitic Poem Felt Personal — to Her and to Me

Posted in Articles, Judaism, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2018-12-31 01:42Z by Steven

Alice Walker’s Terrible Anti-Semitic Poem Felt Personal — to Her and to Me

Intelligencer
New York Magazine
2018-12-28

Nylah Burton


Photo: Peter Earl McCollough/The New York Times/Redux

When I first read Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, I leaned into every word, inhaling Celie’s tragic and triumphant story. In Celie, I felt the presence and pain of my female family members brought up in rural Alabama. In Walker’s unflinching descriptions of misogyny, domestic violence, homophobia, and incest, I saw an open accounting of issues buried deep within the larger southern black community — and within my own family.

Above all, I was drawn into The Color Purple because it was haunted by ghosts — the ghosts of Alice Walker’s past. Eloquently and bravely, she was able to confront generational trauma by telling a universal tale that still felt faithful to her own story. And it was Walker’s ability to throw open the shutters and allow her ghosts — our ghosts — into her writing that made it so revelatory. It cemented her standing as an acclaimed novelist, a civil-rights icon, and a formidable thought leader in the field of black feminism.

That changed abruptly two weeks ago, after the New York Times invited Walker to list her favorite books in its weekly “By the Book” column. She took the opportunity to promote David Icke’s And the Truth Shall Set You Free, which contains some of the most hateful anti-Semitic lies ever to be printed between covers. As excerpted in the Washington Post, Icke’s book alleged that a “small Jewish clique” had created the Russian Revolution and both World Wars, and “coldly calculated” the Holocaust to boot. Icke has also accused Jews (among others) of being alien lizard people. After a week of criticism, Walker doubled down in her assessment of Icke’s indefensible work, calling him “brave” and dismissing charges of anti-Semitism as an attack on the pro-Palestinian cause…


From left: Mel Leventhal, Rebecca Walker, and Alice Walker, 1970. Photo: CSU Archives/Everett Collection

…In 1967, Alice Walker married a young Jewish civil-rights lawyer named Mel Leventhal. Their interracial marriage — the first such legal union in the state of Mississippi — was still illegal in Walker’s home state of Georgia at the time. Leventhal’s mother was also deeply opposed to the union, and his other family members didn’t allow Alice to attend family events. “Leaving no question about how she felt about her son’s marriage to a shvartse (a pejorative Yiddish term for a black person), Miriam Leventhal sat shiva for her son, mourning him as dead,” Evelyn White writes in Alice Walker: A Life. A source who knows the family told me that Mel preferred to ignore rather than confront his family’s bigotry. This caused Walker to feel increasingly isolated and resentful. The marriage ended in 1976, after the pair had one daughter together, named Rebecca

Read the entire article here.

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“You Should’ve Seen My Grandmother; She Passed for White”: African American Women Writers, Genealogy, and the Passing Genre

Posted in Dissertations, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, Women on 2018-08-22 04:27Z by Steven

“You Should’ve Seen My Grandmother; She Passed for White”: African American Women Writers, Genealogy, and the Passing Genre

University of Sheffield
October 2015

Janine Bradbury, Senior Lecturer in Literature; School Learning and Teaching Lead
School of Humanities, Religion & Philosophy
York St John University, York, United Kingdom

Ph.D. Dissertation

This thesis critiques the prevailing assumption that passing is passé in contemporary African American women’s literature.

By re-examining the work of Toni Cade Bambara, Toni Morrison, Gloria Naylor, Dorothy West, Alice Walker, and Barbara Neely, I argue that these writers signify on canonical passing narratives – Brown’s Clotel (1853) and Clotelle (1867), Chesnutt’s The House Behind the Cedars (1900), Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man (1912), Larsen’s Passing (1929), and Hurst’s Imitation of Life (1933) – in order to confront and redress both the historical roots and contemporary contexts of colourism.

As well bridging this historiographic gap, I make a case for reading passing as a multivalent trope that facilitates this very process of cultural interrogation. Rather than focussing on literal episodes of passing, I consider moments of symbolic, textual, and narrative passing, as well as the genealogical and intertextual processes at play in each text which account for the spectral hauntings of the passing-for-white figure in post-civil rights literature.

In Chapter 1, I examine the relationship between passing and embodiments of beauty in Morrison’s The Bluest Eye (1970), Bambara’s “Christmas Eve at Johnson’s Drugs N Goods” (1974) and Neely’s Blanche Among the Talented Tenth (1994).

In Chapter 2, I discuss passing, class, and capital in Naylor’s Linden Hills (1985) and Dorothy West’s The Wedding (1995).

In Chapter 3, I suggest that Walker and Morrison revisit Larsen’s Passing in their short stories “Source” (1982) and “Recitatif” (1983).

Finally, I conclude this project with a discussion of Toni Morrison’s God Help the Child (2015) in order to demonstrate the continued centrality of the passing trope for authors interested in colourism, genealogy, and black women’s experiences.

Embargoed here until October 2020.

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How my mother’s fanatical views tore us apart

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Family/Parenting, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2017-11-28 04:41Z by Steven

How my mother’s fanatical views tore us apart

The Daily Mail
2008-05-23

Rebecca Walker


Maternal rift: Rebecca Walker, whose mother was the feminist author of The Color Purple – who thought motherhood a form of servitude, is now proud to be a mother herself

She’s revered as a trail-blazing feminist and author Alice Walker touched the lives of a generation of women. A champion of women’s rights, she has always argued that motherhood is a form of servitude. But one woman didn’t buy in to Alice’s beliefs – her daughter, Rebecca, 38.

Here the writer describes what it was like to grow up as the daughter of a cultural icon, and why she feels so blessed to be the sort of woman 64-year-old Alice despises – a mother.

Read the entire article here.

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Transcultural Transformation: African American and Native American Relations

Posted in Anthropology, Dissertations, History, Identity Development/Psychology, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, United States on 2011-08-26 02:27Z by Steven

Transcultural Transformation: African American and Native American Relations

University of Nebraska
November 2009
139 pages

Barbara S. Tracy

A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

The intersected lives of African Americans and Native Americans result not only in Black Indians, but also in a shared culture that is evidenced by music, call and response, and story. These intersected lives create a dynamic of shared and diverging pathways that speak to each other. It is a crossroads of both anguish and joy that comes together and apart again like the tradition of call and response. There is a syncopation of two cultures becoming greater than their parts, a representation of losses that are reclaimed by a greater degree. In the tradition of call and response, by denying one or the other something is lost. Claiming the relationship turns transcultural transformation into a powerful response. Working from Henry Gates’ explanation of signifying combined with Houston Baker’s description of blues literature, I examine signifying, call and response, and blues/jazz elements in the work of three writers to discover the collective lives of African Americans, Native Americans, and Black Indians. In the writing of Black-Cherokee Alice Walker, I look for the call and response of both African and Native American story-ways. I find these same elements in the writing of Spokane/Coeur d’Alene writer Sherman Alexie, in his blues writings and his revision of Robert Johnson’s and other stories. In the work of Creek/Cherokee Craig Womack, I examine a Creek/Cherokee perspective of Black Creeks and Freemen. In all of these works, I find that the shared African American and Native American experience plainly takes place in these works in a variety of ways in which the authors call upon oral and written story, song, and dance, and create a response that clearly signifies the combined power of these shared experiences. This is a fusion of shared traditions with differences that demonstrate the blending of voices and culture between two peoples who have been improvising together for a long time.

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: Speaking of Things Yet Unspoken: Native Americans, African Americans, and Black Indians
  • 1. The Red-Black Center of Alice Walker’s Meridian: Asserting a Cherokee Womanist Sensibility
  • 2. Crossroads: The African American and Native American Blues Matrix in Sherman Alexie’s Reservation Blues
  • 3. “Red is Red”: Transcultural Convergence and Craig Womack’s Drowning in Fire
  • Conclusion: Common Ground: Let the Music Start
  • Works Cited

Read the entire dissertation here.

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Stepping into the Same River Twice: Internal/External Subversion of the Inside/Outside Dialectic in Alice Walker’s “The Temple of My Familiar”

Posted in Articles, Gay & Lesbian, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2011-01-26 21:57Z by Steven

Stepping into the Same River Twice: Internal/External Subversion of the Inside/Outside Dialectic in Alice Walker’s “The Temple of My Familiar”

Journal of Bisexuality
Volume 2, Issue 2 & 3 (October 2002)
pages 53-71
DOI: 10.1300/J159v02n02_04

Sikorski Grace, Associate Professor of English
Anne Arundel Community College, Maryland

Passing novels, exemplified here by E. Lynn Harris’s Invisible Life, often perpetuate the representation of bisexuality and/or bi-racial identity as a tension on the border between communities and bodies that threatens to break down or leak when tested. Alice Walker offers an alternative representation of sexual and racial terrain for such hybrid identities. In The Temple of My Familiar, the characterization of Lissie, a multiple reincarnation, and the use of skin as a charged metaphor bring categories of sexual and racial purity to the point of collapse, suggesting the potential to reimagine identity as plural, fluctuating, regenerative, erogenous and permeable. 

Read or purchase the article here.

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Cane

Posted in Biography, Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Novels, Passing on 2010-12-30 16:43Z by Steven

Cane

W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
January 2011 (Originally published in 1923)
560 pages
5 Ă— 8 in
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-393-93168-6

Jean Toomer (1894-1967)

Edited by:

Rudolph P. Byrd (1953-2011), Goodrich C. White Professor of American Studies and African American Studies
Emory University

Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director, W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research
Harvard University

A masterpiece of the Harlem Renaissance and a canonical work in both the American and the African American literary traditions, Cane is now available in a revised and expanded Norton Critical Edition.

Originally published in 1923, Jean Toomer’s Cane remains an innovative literary work—part drama, party poetry, part fiction. This revised Norton Critical Edition builds upon the First Edition (1988), which was edited by the late Darwin T. Turner, a pioneering scholar in the field of African American studies. The Second Edition begins with the editors’ introduction, a major work of scholarship that places Toomer within the context of American Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance. The introduction provides groundbreaking biographical information on Toomer and examines his complex, contradictory racial position as well as his own pioneering views on race. Illustrative materials include government documents containing contradictory information on Toomer’s race, several photographs of Toomer, and a map of Sparta, Georgia—the inspiration for the first and third parts of Cane. The edition reprints the 1923 foreword to Cane by Toomer’s friend Waldo Frank, which helped introduce Toomer to a small but influential readership. Revised and expanded explanatory annotations are also included.

“Backgrounds and Sources” collects a wealth of autobiographical writing that illuminates important phases in Jean Toomer’s intellectual life, including a central chapter from The Wayward and the Seeking and Toomer’s essay on teaching the philosophy of Russian psychologist and mystic Georges I. Gurdjieff, “Why I Entered the Gurdjieff Work.” The volume also reprints thirty of Toomer’s letters from 1919–30, the height of his literary career, to correspondents including Waldo Frank, Sherwood Anderson, Claude McKay, Horace Liveright, Georgia O’Keeffe, and James Weldon Johnson.

An unusually rich “Criticism” section demonstrates deep and abiding interest in Cane. Five contemporary reviews—including those by Robert Littell and W. E. B. Du Bois and Alain Locke—suggest its initial reception. From the wealth of scholarly commentary on Cane, the editors have chosen twenty-one major interpretations spanning eight decades including those by Langston Hughes, Robert Bone, Darwin T. Turner, Charles T. Davis, Alice Walker, Gayl Jones, Barbara Foley, Mark Whalan, and Nellie Y. McKay.

A Chronology, new to the Second Edition, and an updated Selected Bibliography are also included.

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Race Mixing: Southern Fiction since the Sixties

Posted in Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2009-10-23 18:23Z by Steven

Race Mixing: Southern Fiction since the Sixties

Johns Hopkins University Press
2004
360 pages
Hardback ISBN: 9780801873935
Paperback ISBN: 9780801883934

Suzanne W. Jones, Professor of English; Tucker-Boatwright Professor of the Humanities
University of Richmond

In the southern United States, there remains a deep need among both black and white writers to examine the topic of race relations, whether they grew up during segregation or belong to the younger generation that graduated from integrated schools. In Race Mixing, Suzanne Jones offers insightful and provocative readings of contemporary novels, the work of a wide range of writers—black and white, established and emerging. Their stories explore the possibilities of cross-racial friendships, examine the repressed history of interracial love, reimagine the Civil Rights era through children’s eyes, herald the reemergence of the racially mixed character, investigate acts of racial violence, and interrogate both rural and urban racial dynamics.

Employing a dynamic model of the relationship between text and context, Jones shows how more than thirty relevant writers — including Madison Smartt Bell, Larry Brown, Bebe Moore Campbell, Thulani Davis, Ellen Douglas, Ernest Gaines, Josephine Humphreys, Randall Kenan, Reynolds Price, Alice Walker, and Tom Wolfe — illuminate the complexities of the color line and the problems in defining racial identity today. While an earlier generation of black and white southern writers challenged the mythic unity of southern communities in order to lay bare racial divisions, Jones finds in the novels of contemporary writers a challenge to the mythic sameness within racial communities—and a broader definition of community and identity.

Closely reading these stories about race in America, Race Mixing ultimately points to new ways of thinking about race relations. “We need these fictions,” Jones writes, “to help us imagine our way out of the social structures and mind-sets that mythologize the past, fragment individuals, prejudge people, and divide communities.”

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