Author Alice Walker was born on February 9, 1944.
Alice Walker, best known for her novel The Color Purple, writes about racism and related themes, as well as feminist issues. In 1983, she became the first African American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for her portrayal of a poor black woman's struggles in The Color Purple. Walker is also the author of dozens of books of poetry, novels, short stories, and memoirs.
Have your students explore Walker's use of dialect in The Color Purple and then extend their understanding through experimentation in their own writing. First, have your students read the novel. To start the discussion on dialect, select a passage from the novel and rewrite it using standard or formal English. Share your revision with students and have them compare it with the original. Have students find and discuss additional examples of African American dialect in the novel, and then explore the following questions:
- How does Walker's use of dialect affect the story?
- Would the story have the same impact if passages were rewritten in formal English? How would the impact be different?
- Does the use of dialect challenge the reader? Why or why not?
Invite students to write a short piece of fiction or poetry using the dialect of their peer group. Have them rewrite the piece in formal English, and then ask them to compare the two and select their favorite.
Read a sample chapter called "Where Life and Art Intersect" from the book Alice Walker in the Classroom: "Living by the Word", published by the National Council of Teachers of English.
The BBC offers this collection of audio interviews with Alice Walker. In them, she discusses her life, the Civil Rights movement, her work as an author, and more. Biographical information is also included.
The Academy of American Poets offers this biography on Walker. Information about her major literary works and links to related information are included.