Alice Walker1

Alice Walker reads one of her many poems in 2014. (Screenshot via YouTube)

Alice Walker won the Pulitzer Prize and the American Book Award for her third novel, “The Color Purple,” which was made into an internationally popular film by Steven Spielberg. Her other best-selling novels, which have been translated into more than two dozen languages, include “By the Light of My Father’s Smile,” “Possessing the Secret of Joy” and “The Temple of My Familiar.”

Her most recent novel, “Now Is the Time to Open Your Heart,” was published in 2004. Walker is also the author of several collections of short stories, essays and poems as well as children’s books. Her work has appeared in numerous national and international journals and magazines.

An activist and social visionary, Ms. Walker has been a participant in most of the major movements of planetary change, among them the Human and Civil Rights Movement in the South, the Hands Off Cuba Movement, the Women’s Movement, the Native American and Indigenous Rights Movement, the Free South Africa Movement, the Environmental and Animal Rights Movement and the Peace Movement. Her advocacy on behalf of the dispossessed has, in the words of her biographer, Evelyn C. White, “spanned the globe.”

Here, Alice talks about “The Color Purple,” the book, the movie and the play which is back on Broadway in New York, beginning with preview performances on Nov. 10 at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre (242 West 45th Street). The show will officially open on December 10. 

Kam Williams: I told my readers I’d be interviewing you, so I’ll be mixing their questions in with mine. Larry Greenberg asks: How did you originally feel about “The Color Purple” being adapted to film? Are there other works of yours that you would like to see on the silver screen?

Alice Walker: I was skeptical. I’d never seen a film out of Hollywood, especially that had people of color in it,that I respected absolutely. Yes, but I’d want the screen to think of itself in another color than that of money. Couldn’t resist that one!

“Possessing the Secret of Joy” would make an amazing film and help the healing of the peoples of the world, many who suffer because of female genital mutilation without knowing they’re affected, since they themselves might not have been cut. And it would make an absorbing story of how human beings can search out the origins of their misfortunes and sufferings and begin healing themselves, whether movies are made about them or not.

KW: Robin Beckham would like to know whether you have plans to continue the story of Celie in a “Color Purple 2”?

AW: I prefer to write a family of novels, rather than “sequels”: In this case, “The Color Purple,” “The Temple of My Familiar,” “and “Possessing the Secret of Joy” comprise that “family.” Celie and Shug, now happily married, before it was “legal” of course, appear in “The Temple of My Familiar.”

KW: Reverend Florine Thompson says: What was the key motivation for “The Color Purple”?

AW: Love of my grandparents whose lives are honored in the novel. I lived with them when I was an 8 year-old. It also intrigued me that my grandfather was married to my step-grandmother but loved someone else. I was struck writing the novel to realize that many things change, but rarely the heart.

KW: How do we truly change the heart of our society?

AW: American society is incredibly twisted and unwell. At this point I would suggest withdrawing from it as much as possible. This will take many meetings of like-minded folks to figure out how this is done. I’m not suggesting seceding from the union physically, as was attempted in the sixties when the Republic of New Africa tried to take over five southern states, but psychically; we must find a way to raise our children in a better environment than American mainstream culture offers. It’s possible America has no heart to change.

You might read the inexpressibly important book by Eward E. Baptist “The Half Has Never Been Told,” about slavery as the foundation of modern capitalism, to understand the evil upon which our so-called “civilization” rests, and how little this has changed. It seems likely that a diet of greed over countless generations has made many Americans heavy with soullessness. And they’re happy to be that way. Take a look at certain presidential hopefuls.

The re-issue edition of “The Color Purple” is available on