Rebecca Walker
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REBECCA WALKER TO TALK ABOUT MEMORIES, BOOK AT APSU
By Stacie Smith Segovia, © The Leaf Chronicle, April 3, 2005


     
 

Rebecca Walker, daughter of famed author of "The Color Purple" Alice Walker, was affected more by her parents' races than their fame. Her father, Mel Leventhal, was a civil rights lawyer. He was also white and Jewish, while her mother was black.

In her book, "Black, White and Jewish — Autobiography of a Shifting Self," Rebecca Walker gives readers an intimate look at the life of a little girl being raised by politically active parents during the Civil Rights movement. She will read from her book 8 p.m. Monday in Austin Peay State University's Trahern Theater.

At the beginning of their marriage, Walker's parents were a symbol of freedom, of rebellion against racism. Later, as Black Power arose, her mother's union with "the oppressor" became suspect, and Rebecca began to question not only who she was, but how she could exist.

"Remembering my own life means knowing that everything can look one way from the outside, but there is always another story to be told," she writes in the book.

Walker writes fully, convincingly, from the point of view of herself at age five, at age eight, age 12. She surrounds the reader in rich detail, noting the knee-high suede boots her father's girlfriend wore as her parents' marriage fell apart, the smell of her mother's belly as they hugged goodbye, and the texture of the green paint peeling from the walls as her dad relaxed in the bathtub, on the last day she saw him naked.

In an interview conducted by e-mail while on the road for her book tour, Walker explains how she is able to bring back such vivid minutia from 25 and 30 years in history.

"I think that certain experiences are etched into our psyches and stay there awaiting resolution," Walker says. "I decided as I wrote 'BWJ' to be open to seeing and hearing all of those experiences again as a way to begin to let them go. Practically, I invited the memories, and often wrote in a dead heat as the images, smells and sounds flooded my brain."

Some scenes in the book are critical of her parents' lack of understanding of the pain and loss she felt. But Walker says her mother and father gave her much for which she is thankful:

"My life, my education, my belief that social transformation is possible," she says. "Even when they were fairly clueless about my needs as a young mixed race child of divorce, I always felt loved."

While passionate in their own beliefs, her parents never forced them on her.

"My parents also gave me spiritual and intellectual freedom," she says. "Because they left me alone to discover my own mind, I had a clean slate where many people have inherited beliefs that end up dictating their lives."

Today, Walker has a new perspective on parenting, as mother of a newborn son.

"I had no idea it was possible to love another human being so much," she says. "His first smile, the way he watches me move around a room, the miracle of his perfect little body. I feel that I more deeply understand the human experience because of our relationship. So far, this miracle is my greatest joy."

Walker was named by "Time Magazine" as one of 50 influential American leaders under forty. Susan Wallace, editorial assistant APSU's literary magazine, says Walker has quite a reputation as an activist.

"Because of her activism and her interesting heritage," Wallace says, "I think she will have a broad appeal to (people who are) African American, white, Jewish, and others who find themselves struggling with their identity."

 

 

 

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