Rebecca Walker
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REBECCA WALKER: BEING BLACK, WHITE AND JEWISH
© Ivillage.com, August 05, 2001


     
 

Rebecca Walker, daughter of civil rights activist Alice Walker, is the author of Black, White and Jewish, a memoir about the racial issues that pervaded her childhood. Below, Rebecca chats with iVillagers about race, mothers and daughters, getting published, and much more.

iVillager cl-dastorm: Welcome, Rebecca! Could you tell us a little about yourself and your book?

Rebecca Walker: Sure. I'm 31, and I live in California. My book is about growing up racially mixed: growing up moving from city to city and culture to culture. It's about how I deal with race in this world.

iVillager 2thesea: Where do you get your inspiration?

Rebecca Walker: Well, I grew up in so many different worlds. My mom lived in San Francisco and my dad in New York. I moved back and forth, from white communities to black communities. In writing this, I wanted to piece my life together, to heal, to collect and sort through my past. I'm a huge reader, and am inspired by many books. For my first book, To Be Real, I did a lot of speaking in colleges. I met many people of mixed races -- but we didn't have any culture. I wanted to write this book to help bring multiracial people together.

iVillager cl-bosbaby: Rebecca, I have a daughter that is mixed and 32 years old. She has a few issues with me, so to speak. Did you go through that, too?

Rebecca Walker: Sounds like your daughter might like the book. It's hard for white parents of children of color. White parents just can't experience what we go through. I have similar problems with my dad; I love him but I can't talk about race with him.


iVillager cl-dastorm: I applaud you for writing your autobiography! Was it painful to write? Would you recommend this to teenagers?

Rebecca Walker:Yes, it was painful; I had to sit with lots of painful memories. But in the end, I was able to confront my past; I was able to let a lot of it go. I think all young people should read it. It's the story of my childhood all the way through high school. It deals with a lot of different issues. I was a child of divorce. I think young people relate to it well.

iVillager cl-cindytree: Is it more difficult being a mixed race than being "all" black or white or Jewish? If so, why?

Rebecca Walker : I like to avoid making judgements on whose pain is greater; I think it's hard being all of the above. Everybody has struggles to work through, and mine had to do with being multiracial.

iVillager lynneb_101: When writing this memoir, did you have a hard time knowing where to start, or did you just take the plunge and jump right in?

Rebecca Walker: Interesting question. Well, when I started writing it I had very few childhood memories; I think I blocked them out. When I lived in the Bronx an incident occurred that triggered a few memories in me -- and I thought I should write about them. That's when I started to think about it. Writing this book was organic, in the sense that my job was to open up and let the memories flood my body and mind.

iVillager cl-bosbaby: Did you grow up in a black neighborhood, or a variety of neighborhoods?

Rebecca Walker: I spent my childhood moving between my father's Jewish white area and my mother's mostly African community in San Francisco. I went back and forth every two years.

iVillager cl-bosbaby : Which one was better?

Rebecca Walker: I don't thing either was better, per se. They both had their weaknesses and strengths. I liked San Francisco because it was a beautiful city. The kids I went to school with were children of hippies. In New York, people were more socially conservative, which was kind of a drag. I loved living in the Bronx, though. And during the beginning of hip hop! That was exciting.

iVillager lynneb_101: How long did it take you to write this book, especially since you had to dig for your memories?

Rebecca Walker: It took me almost four years. It wasn't because I had to dig for memories, but because I had to do a lot of psychological digging. Having a mom as a famous writer makes it hard. I thought that, since my mom wrote so beautifully, why should I even bother writing? I really had to claim my own voice, and that took time.

iVillager lynneb_101: Are you in the process of writing another book?

Rebecca Walker: I am. But I'm not sure what it's going to be yet; it's still percolating.

iVillager cl-dastorm: Could you explain what the Third Wave Direct Action Foundation is?

Rebecca Walker: It's the only national organization for young women. We fund their projects; we give grants to young women who need abortion, to women starting their own businesses, to young women who want to go to school. We gave almost $50,000 this cycle.

iVillager cl-cindytree: You mentioned that your mom is a famous writer. Can you tell us who she is? Also, have you always wanted to be a writer yourself? And when were you first published?

Rebecca Walker: My mother is Alice Walker. I was first published in high school; I wrote an essay on domestic violence. This is what inspired me; I saw a man beating up a woman, and I tried to intervene. He threatened me, so I waited until it was over and wanted to take the woman home. I thought she would want to get away from him -- but she didn't. I wrote about this for my school newspaper, and that was the beginning of my writing career. Then, in 1989, I wrote for MS Magazine. My first book was To Be Real; it's about redefining feminism. I've written about a lot of things, and my memoir is very different from my other book.

iVillager cl-dastorm: Do you have a website or email address?

Rebecca Walker: My email is moka1117@aol.com, and www.rebeccawalker.com is under construction. I hope it will be ready by March. /ga

iVillager lynneb_101: Would you recommend that every author that write her personal memoirs, even if they may not get published?

Rebecca Walker: Yes, I would. Everyone should reflect on her upbringing in some way, since it helped shape the person you are today. I think it's truly an important process. Now, I'm able to let go of all the baggage of my memories.

iVillager oakhill84604: Do you think it's all right for a writer to use more than one voice in her work; that is, do you feel it's acceptable to use different voices in different stories?

Rebecca Walker: I think that's fine. As a writer, you live with characters who channel their voices through you. Also, I think different pieces call for different tones - as long as you have some kind of consistency in your voice. As a writer you have to use the tools of the trade.

Good night everyone! Thank you for coming. Please email me.

 

 

Rebecca Walker - All Rights Reserved 2007. http://www.rebeccawalker.com - Rebecca @ MySpace