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.
cl-dastorm: Welcome, Rebecca! Could you tell us a little
about yourself and your book?
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.
2thesea: Where do you get your inspiration?
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.
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?
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?
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?
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
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?
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.
cl-bosbaby: Did you grow up in a black neighborhood, or
a variety of neighborhoods?
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.
cl-bosbaby : Which one was better?
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.
lynneb_101: How long did it take you to write this book,
especially since you had to dig for your memories?
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.
lynneb_101: Are you in the process of writing another book?
Walker: I am. But I'm not sure what it's going to be
yet; it's still percolating.
cl-dastorm: Could you explain what the Third Wave Direct
Action Foundation is?
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.
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?
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.
cl-dastorm: Do you have a website or email address?
Walker: My email is firstname.lastname@example.org, and www.rebeccawalker.com
is under construction. I hope it will be ready by March.
lynneb_101: Would you recommend that every author that write
her personal memoirs, even if they may not get published?
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.
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?
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.
night everyone! Thank you for coming. Please email me.