Alice Walker is one of America's most celebrated writers of literary fiction, but it is for her novel The Color Purple (1982) that she remains best known. Walker's third novel won a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award and was made into a successful film of the same name by Steven Spielberg in 1985. Since then, Walker has written a number of novels, essays and books of poetry, and is also a highly-regarded activist and speaker.
Walker was born into the South during the Jim Crow era, but her mother valued education strongly. Blinded in one eye by her brother, who shot her with a pellet gun, Walker suffered bullying in school before graduating as the valedictorian and being voted the most popular girl. She attended the historic African-American Spelman College in Atlanta on a full scholarship and transferred to Sarah Lawrence two years later. Walker married civil rights lawyer Melvyn Roseman Leventhal and returned with him to Mississippi where they became the first legal interracial couple in the state. She gave birth to her only child, Rebecca, and published her first book of poetry, Once.
Walker went on to write two novels, The Third Life of Grange Copeland (1970) and Meridian (1976), while working for Ms. magazine - Gloria Steinem was her daughter's godmother - but her landmark book The Color Purple arose amid personal upheaval. Walker had left her husband and not long after had fallen in love with editor Robert Allen; the two moved in together in California and she finished writing The Color Purple. The book primarily told the story of an African-American woman named Celie during the first part of the twentieth century and won both the Pulitzer Prize for Literature and the National Book Award. The book was also made into the successful film, "The Color Purple" (1985), directed by Steven Spielberg.
Walker's novels, nonfiction books and short story collections have included The Temple of My Familiar (1989), Possessing the Secret of Joy(1992) and We are the Ones we Have Been Waiting for (2006). In the early 1990s, after she and Allen broke up, she had a relationship with singer/songwriter Tracy Chapman. Walker and her daughter Rebecca, also a writer, became estranged amid Rebecca's charges that her mother's activism had led to her own neglect.
In 2004, "The Color Purple" premiered as a musical in Atlanta's Alliance Theater and the following year on Broadway where it won a Tony for best leading actress in a musical. Walker does not resent the early success of her third novel or the way it may have overshadowed her work, telling The Guardian in 2007, "I do like the way that I have been well taken care of by this particular story. It means that I can write any other story that I want to write, do whatever I want to, pretty much." In 2013, she released a book of poetry, The World Will Follow Joy: Turning Madness into Flowers and a nonfiction book, Cushion in the Road.