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March 31, 2008
Walker shares new direction for her career

By Elaine Justice

Alice Walker delighted her sold-out audience in Glenn Memorial Auditorium March 25, acknowledging their standing ovation (one of several) with crossed arms and a smile, looking happy and serene.

For her first appearance on campus after placing her archive at Emory, Walker read from a panoply of her work, reflecting the power and scope of her writing, which she said spans some 50 years, beginning during her childhood in Eatonton, Ga.

Usually she selected the last page or pages of her published works to read from: Perhaps it was a gesture symbolic of placing her treasured writings into the hands of archivists at Emory’s Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library.

Whatever the reason, it was clear she was happy with the decision. “It’s very dear to be here now, to be in this room, looking at each other,” she said to the sea of people who came to hear her, see her. “I so loved the peach trees of my childhood, I decided to come today dressed as a peach tree!” she said, stepping from behind the lectern in her pink blouse and green skirt.

Walker’s first selection, an essay titled, “My Mother’s Blue Bowl,” was especially appropriate to the occasion: “She had taught me a lesson about letting go of possessions — easily, without emphasis or regret — and she had given me a symbol of what she herself represented in my life,” Walker read.

She glided easily through the milestones of her literary career and glimpses of her life as well, talking about and reading from “The Color Purple,” “Meridian,” “The Third Life of Branch Copeland,” her children’s book, “Why War is Never a Good Idea,” and the 2006 book of essays, “We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For.”

Now that she is 64, she says, she wants to devote her life to wandering and meditation, looking at ways of feeding children. She plans to visit Vietnam, Sri Lanka and India, sponsored by Heifer International. “This is the direction for me,” she said. “It’s more important to me than writing another book; it’s more important to me than anything I could think of.”

“I’ve done this work as well as I could do it,” she said, adding that she is not abandoning writing, just that “that part of my journey is done.”

“There’s a lightness to it, a new direction and a new path for me,” she said, smiling. “It feels really right.”