“I want to say Adé reads like a memoir, but this heartbreaking, poetic tale of romance versus reality does more than that: it reads like truth. Lush, sensual, seductive, Adéis written with as much love as the story it tells.”
–MAT JOHNSON, author of Pym
“In luminous, dreamlike prose, Rebecca Walker has written more than a love story: Adé explores the difficulty of fleeing one's origins, of relinquishing privilege, even in the name of love.”
—DANZY SENNA, author of You Are Free and Caucasia
“Brief and intense, Adé is a surprise gem—a sensuous feast of food, sex, danger and the life of awakened senses from one of our most celebrated nonfiction writers. A lyrical novel as timeless as Marguerite Duras’ The Lover.”
—MOLLY PEACOCK, author of The Paper Garden: An Artist Begins Her Life's Work at 72
“If you've ever dared to love outside the predictable geography of your origins, or wished you had, this beautiful novel will grab your heart and not let go.”
—BLISS BROYARD, author of One Drop: My Father's Hidden Life-A Story of Race and Family Secrets
But whatever my mood, I always love the light beyond this window. I love the quiet. I love my two empty chairs, sentinels awaiting their visitors, open to the promise of more. I feel at home in this spot, on this road to the small village of Hana, on this tiny piece of rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. I love the rain that pours down, thunderous and crashing, before sunshine, harsh and stunning, pierces through once again.
Rebecca Walker: Black is Cool
“…YOU CAN NO MORE SEPARATE COOL FROM BLACKNESS THAN YOU CAN SEPARATE HULA FROM HAWAIIANS, OR YOGA FROM INDIANS, OR FRENCH CUISINE FROM THE FRENCH. “
Rebecca Walker is cool. The origins of her cool aren’t located in some unquantifiable “swag,” nor is it strutting down a Fashion Week runway, cooing in a music video, or residing in a pulpit oratory whose cadence conjures protests of Southern trees bearing strange fruits. It isn’t even found in her casual Soho clothes or Noxema-clear complexion. Rebecca Walker’s cool stems from a mind, talent, experiences bred on both coasts (New York City and San Francisco, to be exact), and a pedigree of accomplishments that puts to shame many a slacker son and daughter of the 1%. Through her latest edited collection, Black Cool: A Thousand Streams of Blackness, one would say that Walker cites the ground-spring of her cool in a residence both less and more obvious, depending on your embrace of stereotype and level of social consciousness—her Blackness.
Biracial, bisexual, but far too multi-talented to be binary in any other way, for two decades Walker’s tackled the tough subjects of identity, community, power and justice placing her own life and experiences at the center of her discourse and making “the personal political” mean more than a lefty slogan. Considered one of the founding mothers of Third Wave Feminism and a leading multimedia voice from the Gen X generation, the Yale graduate and long-time contributing editor of Ms. has demonstrated all the modern renaissance woman can be. Whether working punditry at CNN or MTV, touring the college lecture circuit to inspire a generation of fresh, eager-eyed feminists, or writing the books they’re all talking about, including: To Be Real: Telling the Truth and Changing the Face of Feminism; Black, White and Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self; What Makes A Man: 22 Writers Imagine the Future and Baby Love: Choosing Motherhood After A Lifetime of Ambivalence, the multiple award-winning Walker’s proven herself more than her last name.
Given all these lofty accomplishments, it seems almost bad manners to mention that Walker is the famously estranged daughter of womanist activist and Color Purpleauthor Alice Walker. Named one of The Advocate’s “40 under 40” and Time Magazine’s “50 Future Leaders of America,” Rebecca Walker has beaten back broadcast-whispered charges of nepotism with a grinder’s aplomb. It’s her tenacious talent that’s kept her pinnacled as a sought-after voice and frequently published cultural critic of note. Hers and the gifts of her talented circle are on earnest display in a work about a much dog-eared subject of “Black Cool” without the social science “pathology” invocations that usually accompany the subject. As you’ll see, for Walker the subject is so much more than a dissected “cool pose” leading to jail or hell. It’s as multi-faceted as the lady herself.
GROWING UP, my sexuality, like for many, was shaped by the culture I lived and breathed, and heterosexuality was pretty much the only meal served at the Table of Sexual Orientation. Ken and Barbie did not have lovers of the same sex. Denise did not fret to Daddy Huxtable about her girl crush. From the moment I grew breasts, people asked whether I wanted to be a lawyer or an astronaut when I grew up, and if I had a boyfriend. No one, not ever, not once, asked if I had a girlfriend. If they had, I might have considered the possibility. But they didn't, so I didn't, either. The thought never crossed my mind. Which might explain why, the first time I fell in love with a woman, I was completely thrown.
I was 21 years old, four months out of college, three months out of a relationship with a boy I thought I was going to marry, and employed at a nonprofit. One evening, I was working a fundraiser at an awards ceremony for women in the film industry. A possible suitor, male or female, was as far from my mind as the salt lakes in the Himalayas. And yet, as I strode across the exquisitely appointed room toward yet another philanthropist, I bumped into a very beautiful woman.
She was a celebrity who shall go forever unnamed, but I will say that she was statuesque and confident, and her skin glowed with health, wealth, and carefully applied bronzer. I sputtered and apologized for almost knocking her down. She smiled and touched my arm, but I was mortified and dashed into the women's room. I had never felt attracted to a woman before. It was as if my whole view of what was sexy, sensual, and possible had just turned on its axis.
Spin the Globe: Rebecca Walker in Bulgaria
AFAR chooses a destination at random—by literally spinning a globe—and sends writer Rebecca Walker on a spontaneous journey to Bulgaria.
In the course of a single impromptu trip, the web went from being very virtual to very real. The shift began instantly after my destination was revealed, 48 hours before departure. I was headed for the unknown; what else could I do but send 140 characters to thousands of people I had never met? “Hey Tweeps! What’s good in Bulgaria?”
Within 20 minutes I received a direct message from Petya Kirilova-Grady, a Bulgarian feminist blogger living in Tennessee who said she’d be thrilled to show me her Bulgaria. Her list, sent a few hours later to my personal email, included places for me to go, things to see, people to meet, and food to eat. My trip had officially begun. I didn’t know it then, but Petya’s generosity—and the miraculous nature of the Internet connection—would color every moment of my journey.
When I hit the tarmac in Sofia at 7 a.m., I felt buoyed by Petya’s spirit. Rather than bleak and unforgiving, the stripped-down airport—white on white, with huge windows looking out on blank runways and endless gray sky—was inspiring in its minimalism.
Once in the city, I noticed not the imminent rainstorm but the warmth of the people. Bulgarians strolled the spacious main street of Sofia’s posh Vitosha district in twos and threes, bundled against the chill. They held hands, linked arms, and talked quietly with heads bowed and pressed together.
Petya wrote that I must visit the 10th-century Rila monastery outside of Sofia, so on my first day I rode the local bus two hours into the mountains. At the remote hermitage, I found the sweetest, freshest air and meditated in the impenetrable stillness. I was alone but felt as if Petya was there, too; this person I had never met, who led me to this place I had never been.
Back in Sofia the next morning, I fretted a bit about the connection. For a moment, I was determined to do my own thing, to reclaim my adventure. But then I roamed the streets aimlessly for a few hours and came to realize Petya was my adventure. She created the list, but even though I was following her bread crumbs, her magic trail, I was still tracking the unknown.
Which is how I ended up having coffee on my second day in Sofia with Petya’s friend, former world-class and national champion tennis player Magdalena Maleeva, who is also a founder of the country’s ecology movement and now the owner of the only group of organic grocery stores in Bulgaria. We sat in the café next to her main shop in the center of the labyrinthian city and talked about motherhood—how we loved it, how we wanted more children, how we were not ready for the time of cuddling babies to be over.
I asked about tennis—how could I not? Magdalena told me the story she must have repeated 10,000 times: Her mother worked at a tennis club and put all three of her talented girls in classes. Her mother pushed them. The Communist regime, in power from 1946 to 1990, pushed them. They all became tennis legends. “And now I educate corporations about going green,” she said. We laughed.
MAKE IT COUNT.
I am sooo loving being a part of this incredible collection.
Award-winning writer and high-flying sexual truth-teller Jong (Love Comes First, 2009, etc.) partners with 28 collaborators to create this fierce and refreshingly frank collection of personal essays, short fiction and cartoons celebrating female desire.
The approaches to the still-taboo topic of feminine sexuality—at least, for women writers seeking approbation from the literary establishment—are, as Jong notes, “as varied as sexuality itself” and as exuberantly diverse as the contributors themselves. They range from such emerging talents as Elisa Albert and J.A.K. Andres to such luminaries as Rebecca Walker, Eve Ensler, Susan Cheever, Anne Roiphe and Fay Weldon, and represent a multiethnic, multigenerational swath of some of the finest women writers in the United States.
By Rebecca Walker
Kara Walker is tall, fashionable and reserved when I meet her in the lobby of the chic Residence Du Parc, a brutalist landmark of poured concrete adorned with iconic examples of modernist and postmodern art. Outside huge windows, Turin is celebrating itself: Italian flags drip from every window, flutter along every boulevard.
Kara wears flat leather oxfords, tights and a paper-thin leather jacket. She eyes me somewhat warily as I extend my arms for an embrace and launch into small talk, which I normally detest. Luckily, my bags have been lost and I indulged in a truly remarkable spa treatment the night before, so I have plenty to talk about.
She's been working on the installation of her show we're both here in Italy to support. The necessary projectors have not arrived. The show is to open in five days, and today we have to teach a class to art students. I sense she'd like to get back to the gallery, and the class is a distraction. She twirls her hair as we wait for the taxi.
At the class, the students are on fire. They've studied our work and want to know about memory and myth, the creative process and its demands. Kara and I sit behind a paint-splattered table and do our best. I'm jet-lagged but exuberant, thanks to a piping-hot cappuccino; Kara is laconic and soft-spoken. But then I see it -- a gentle smile, then a big laugh followed by a series of confident assessments of student work.
As the day wears on, we find a groove. We tag-team it, develop a rapport, give everything we can in the time allotted. Driving back to the Du Parc to recover and prepare for dinner, we talk about our kids. Hers is starting high school, into fashion, gorgeous. Mine is 6, getting ready for soccer camp, and I miss him with an ache I can't begin to put into words.
The next five days are a whirlwind of activity. We teach the students, I present my memoir Baby Love at Il Circolo dei Lettori on the same night that Jonathan Franzen reads from Freedom. I introduce Kara's show, A Negress of Noteworthy Talent, to a full gallery, and Melissa Harris-Perry and Jennifer Richeson follow up with talks about the black body and the neurological workings of prejudice. The press descends and recommends.