A Q&A with Evelyn C. White, Author of Alice Walker: A Life

Interview by Colleen, staff member, Marketing & Communications

In honour of the Library’s The Color Purple event seriesopens a new window, and Alice Walker’s 75th birthday (February 9, 2019), we sat down with Evelyn C. White, journalist, relatively new Haligonian, and official biographer of Alice Walker: A Life.

Born in Chicago, Illinois; and raised in Gary, Indiana; Evelyn has written 4 books, including the 10-years-in-the-making biography of Alice Walker, published in 2004. She worked for The San Francisco Chronicle for 8 years, and has interviewed the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Queen Latifah, and Whoopi Goldberg.

Halifax Public Libraries was honoured to be able to spend time with Evelyn and learn more about her career and her relationship with Alice Walker, and to discuss all things The Color Purple.

Alice Walker

Halifax Public Libraries:

When did you first read The Color Purple? What about it spoke to you?

Evelyn C. White:

I first read The Color Purple not that long after it came out—1982. And back in the day before cellphones and internet, there was just sort of this informal communication between Black women, writers, activists. And I started hearing about this book. I was living in Seattle at the time.

So, I went and got it, and I read the first page…

“You better not never tell nobody but God. It’d kill your mammy.”

…and I was just transfixed by it. I recognized the voice immediately, meaning, a Black woman’s voice. It was an “untutored,” rural, folk-language voice; and also the epistolary style of letter writing. It really spoke to me as someone who always wrote and loved receiving letters. And of course, the title of the book was so evocative.

I started reading it, and I either read it all that day or shortly thereafter. It was a very quick read. I thought from the very first moment that I read it that it was magnificent, and I knew intuitively that it had done something phenomenal for literature in the U.S., African-American literature, and for Black women’s voices. It was profound. It was obvious to me.

The Color Purple

 

Halifax Public Libraries:

Tell us a bit about how you met Alice Walker. How did this relationship grow into you writing her biography?

Evelyn C. White:

Well, I first became introduced to Alice’s work with The Third Life of Grange Copeland. It’s about a Black family in the rural south, farmers, and violence.

The Third Life of Grange Copeland

At that time, I was working on my first book, Chain, Chain, Change: For Black Women in Abusive Relationships, and I read it for my research.

As I’ve said previously, The Color Purple has overshadowed everything Alice wrote before it and basically everything she’s written afterwards, so people forget that it was Alice’s 10th book.

So, I read that novel and it was actually so harrowing and emotionally difficult. I needed to do it for my research, but after my research, I basically blanked it out of my consciousness because the story was so horrific—even though ultimately, it’s a story of redemption, like all of Alice’s work. That was my introduction to her.

Then, at some point thereafter, The Color Purple had come out and I was teaching a non-fiction writing workshop in Oregon. One of the things we did in this workshop, me and all the other instructors, was that we really emphasized the participants’ identities as a writer. We discouraged them from talking about anything else about themselves.

You know how it’s so easy for people to, sort of, rank themselves and make themselves feel better by saying “this is my job,” and then people who didn’t have such a high-profile job could potentially feel less-than or unequal. So, to have everybody on an equal ground, we just said, “We want you to talk about only your identity as a writer. Leave everything else behind.”

So, I had this student in my class and she was writing a victim impact statement because her mother had been murdered. So this was basically all I knew about Elizabeth. Everyone was supportive of her for this piece. She was going to present it in a Court of Law, so she stood out for that reason, and she was so dedicated to doing it.

Then the workshop ended and I went back to The San Francisco Chronicle, where I was a reporter, and one day she called me and she said, “I ran into Alice Walker.” I had no idea where Elizabeth or Alice lived, and I had no idea she knew her.

She said, “I ran into Alice Walker at this country store, and she told me to tell you to call her,” and she gave me the number. I ignored it completely. I could not take it in: Why would Alice Walker want me to call her? It made no sense whatsoever.

I went on about my business and then 2 or 3 weeks later, the phone rang, and a voice said “May I speak to Evelyn?” I said, “Speaking.” And she said, “This is Alice Walker.”

I literally almost fainted. She said, “Did Elizabeth give you my message?” And I reverted to childhood. I said, “Yes ma’am.”

She called to get me to come to her country house to spend some time with her. I was speechless and she just walked me through it.

“Would you like to come?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“Do you have a calendar?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“Is it with you right now?”

“No ma’am.”

“Why don’t you go and get it.”

“Yes ma’am.”

So we chose a date and she said, “My assistant will send you directions to my house in the country,” and I said, “Yes ma’am.”

I went into shock. Maybe a week or so later, I opened my mailbox and there were instructions from her assistant to get there—about 2 hours from my house in the country. I looked at it and then I just sort of knew I couldn’t tell anybody. What was I going to say? I was going to her house? I didn’t tell anybody.

I went and bought a brand-new sleeping bag, I arranged to get my car completely serviced and buffed, washed, and shined. I thought about a gift I could bring her—it turned out to be the cast album of a show that had been on Broadway at the time called The Gospel of Colonus, an old vinyl album.

I would go to work, come home, do my thing, and then on the appointed day, I told my housemates, “I’m going away. I’m not sure where, I’m just going away.”

I’m driving in my little red Volkswagen with a little piece of paper, and everything on the paper is true. “You’ll pass by this sign. You’ll see this apple orchard.” All of these things. “You’ll come up this hill. You’ll see this gate. Here’s the combination to the lock.” I can still remember the combination almost 40 years later. I can still hear the click. I was there thinking, “Everything that’s on this piece of paper is true.” Because part of me was thinking, I can’t really be going to Alice Walker’s house. It can’t be true.

I drove the car in, I parked where it said to park, and then I stood there. I remember that moment. And perhaps I can liken it to the first time someone had seen the Taj Mahal. I just stood there and looked out at this beautiful landscape of orchards, trees, buildings. And a voice just said to me, “This is what happens when you tell your truth.”

All of this, everything I was looking at, it had come to Alice Walker because she had written The Color Purple.

It was very, very affirming as to the importance of doing your truest work as a writer, no matter what the opposition is. Because I later found out that everybody thought that The Color Purple was going to be a flop. It was a dramatic moment.

I had never seen Alice Walker in the flesh. And I’m standing there, looking at this landscape, and I saw this Black woman walking over the hill, and it’s Alice Walker in these green wader boots carrying a mop and a pail. She told me she’d been cleaning the cottage where I was going to spend the weekend. And she said, “It’s the cottage where I wrote The Color Purple.”

Then we had a weekend and it just proceeded from there.

There are several houses (simple, beautifully decorated, natural) on her property. That weekend, we also went to another house where Alice, her partner, and I watched a Cheech and Chong movie.

Driving back from that house to the cottage where I slept, Alice remarked that she hadn't seen any deer in a while. A second after she said it, a deer appeared in the headlights. It was if she had communicated with it. I remember being astounded. It was the only time the entire weekend that I saw a deer. She is deeply, and I mean deeply, attuned to nature.

 

Halifax Public Libraries:

Why did Alice first contact you?

Evelyn C. White:

It was sort of a combination of Elizabeth from my class, and, I think what had happened previously was that I had written a review of a book of hers called Living by the Word. It was a collection of essays. So, that was the sequence.

I had written this review, and up until this moment, as far as I knew, Alice Walker had never spoken publicly about the controversy surrounding The Color Purple. So, in one of her essays, she responded to the controversy in some way.

In my book review, I’d highlighted that essay, amongst other ones, saying, “For those who have criticized Alice Walker for hating Black people and destroying Black America through this novel, read this essay, and see how much she really loves Black people.”

And then one day, this letter from Alice Walker had appeared. It said something to the effect of, “I read your review. It has been a lovely light to see by.” It was signed in purple felt pen.

All of it was so overwhelming to me that I’d just put it away in a file somewhere.

The sequence must have been: writing that review, and then the class with Elizabeth. So, I didn’t connect those events. When Elizabeth told me that Alice wanted me to call her, the review wasn’t in my mind. It didn’t make any sense to me!

 

Halifax Public Libraries:

Tell us a bit about the process working with Alice through the years —the biography took nearly a decade to complete.

Evelyn C. White:

First of all, what happened in terms of serendipity, was that the cosmic forces delivered me to a speech that Alice gave.

After my essay and the weekend trip, we became what I call “collegial acquaintances.” I was the senior Black woman reporter at The San Francisco Chronicle, and she would read a lot of what I wrote, which had a lot to do with Black cultural, socio-political issues, amongst other things.

I was on leave from the paper and I was in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Alice was being given a medal at Radcliffe College, formerly part of Harvard. I just happened to be there, so her assistant sent me a note and said Alice was going to be giving a speech and they could put me on the list.

I go to this speech, and it was very fancy, this Harvard-Radcliffe kind of thing.

Alice’s most recent novel at that time was Possessing the Secret of Joy, which was a novel about female genital mutilation.

Possessing the Secret of Joy

So, Alice gives this speech. Very short, very concise, as she tends to be. She basically talked about why she had written this novel about such a painful topic—the mutilation of African girls. She said she decided to write it in the hopes that it would prevent “one girl child on Earth from undergoing this procedure.” And if so, “That would be worth it to me.”

And of course, as she was discussing this book, she used terminology like clitoris, vulva, labia, to help people understand what was happening.

Then, afterwards, there was this reception for her. And even at that point, my sense of Alice was that receptions really weren’t her thing. But, it showed her willingness to engage with people.

The first question was, this woman raised her hand, and she was a white woman. She basically said to Alice, “Your luncheon speech was very graphic and not at all what people expected.” This woman went on to complain about Alice’s speech. She basically identified herself as, “I’m one of the people who brought you here. And people are going to call my office and complain about what you said. Maybe they’re even going to threaten to not donate money to us, or take back money they’ve already donated.”

At this point, all of the air had been sucked out of the room. And she sort of finished it with, “Can you give me some advice as to what I should say to people who are going to call and complain about your speech?”

I was sitting in the front row, and I thought to myself, “Alice is going to cry.” It was such a wounding question after what Alice had said about why she wrote the novel, and the emotional cost to her. Every time, she said, she had given a talk about the novel, somebody fainted. And during that luncheon, somebody fainted. I saw them. Because it’s so graphic, and it touches people.

So, Alice looks like she’s going to cry. I’m just staring at her, and there’s this total silence in the room.

Her stature is very small, and she has a soft, very Southern sort of lilt. She took a deep breath, and she said in so many words, “Well, since the people you know consider themselves so powerful and have so much money and so much influence, here’s what you can tell them. To the people who are going to complain about my book: Most of the people in the world are not white, are not wealthy. Most of the people in the world have lives like Tashi, the protagonist of my novel. They are poor, they are poorly educated. They don’t have clean water. They don’t have adequate housing. They live under political strife. That’s the condition of most people in the world.”

By then, I’m like, “Yeah!”

She said, “If your people consider themselves to have so much power and influence, they really should be educated and knowledgeable about the conditions of most people in the world.” And then she went on to say, which really signalled to me, the depth of Alice’s anger and hurt.—because she was raised in the South and typically had a certain sort of calm demeanour that people in the South can have. “But I know how certain white people can be with their money. So, you can tell the ones who don’t want to buy my book, that they can get it free in any public library.”

And that was it. The reception was over. No more questions, no more discussions. It was a profound sort of clash of energy, vision, understanding. I sat there and I thought, that I had been a firsthand witness to what I considered sort of an overarching theme of Alice Walker’s work—which was to transform injury into “uplift and affirmation.”

In that moment, she had transformed a personal insult to her as a writer, into this affirmation for the dispossessed.

It was the moment when I decided that if Alice agreed, I would write her biography. It was pivotal.

When I got back to California, I spent a year writing what turned out to be a 5-page letter to Alice, explaining what her work had meant to me, and why I would want to write her biography. It took a year to write it because I needed it to say everything that I would want to say to her, so that when I put it in the mailbox, if I dropped dead that moment, I would have said everything I wanted to say to her in life.

I mailed it off with no attachment. And then I got a very nice letter from Alice saying “Thanks but no thanks, I can’t imagine a biography, I just couldn’t handle it,” etc.

The point of the letter was not to get Alice Walker to say “Yes.” Alice Walker is not subject to outside persuasion. Ever. The purpose of the letter was for me to put down on paper what she had meant to me.

I went on about my life, being a reporter. And one day, Alice Walker called me, as she would do from time to time to discuss political things—something I’d written about in the newspaper, something she needed more understanding about. It was always about something political or social, not chit chat. It was always community-minded. So, it wasn’t unusual for her to call me.

She invited me to lunch. I went to her house, and she’d made this delicious leek soup and some bread. She said, “I’ve been thinking some more about the biography.” I said, “Oh, really?” Because I hadn’t thought about it. I’d put it completely away.

“Yes, and how’s your writing going?”

“I’ve been working on this and that, some projects. But not moving forward.”

“I’ve been thinking some more about the biography, and if you’d like to do it, let’s go ahead and do it.”

I knew in that moment that my life would change forever. I didn’t want to, “trouble the moment,” as we say, so I decided to just take it in. But the journalist in me was of course, very curious as to what had changed, now a year later.

I said of course, I’d love to do it, “But if I could ask, why did you change your mind?”

She’s the youngest child of 8. And she had had an accident when she was 8 years old. When she was 14, I think, her brother Bill and his wife had invited her to leave the segregated South and come to Boston under the pretense of babysitting their first child for the summer. But the real purpose of getting Alice there was to take her to a hospital in Boston to see if she could have the scar tissue removed from her eye, from this accident. He had noticed how much the scar tissue had changed her sense of self.

Bill, who was very dear to her, had been diagnosed with leukemia between the time I had asked her to write the biography, and the time we had lunch.

She wanted to do the book to honour all of her family members. She understood, I think, on some level, that no one would ever come asking her siblings about their lives, because they were not famous. While the public might have perceived that Alice Walker rose out of the success of The Color Purple novel, and the Pulitzer Prize, and the Steven Spielberg movie; the major contributors to her success had been her family, and she wanted them honoured and affirmed before it was too late. That was clear to me.

So, I got on a plane and the first interview I did—I went directly to Boston—was with her brother Bill. I’d asked her what he liked, and she said, “cashews,” and I got the biggest bag of cashews for him.


Halifax Public Libraries:

You were born in Chicago and spent much of your life in the United States. What brought you to Halifax?

Evelyn C. White:

My partner, Joanne, is Canadian. At some point, she’d moved to the San Francisco Bay area. We’d actually met at that first writing workshop where I’d met Elizabeth. But I didn’t know anything about her, except that she was a poet. Later I found out that she was born in Montreal, had lived in Victoria, and at some point moved to the Bay area.

So, we dated, had a relationship. But at some point she said, “I am done with the U.S. I can’t stand it anymore. I am out of here.”

I said, “Okay. I have no problems with moving to Canada, but I can’t go until I finish my book,” (the Alice Walker biography). Because my working relationship with Alice for this book was very casual.

We didn’t have formal interviews—ever. We just sort of hung out. She would invite me to things that she knew would be useful for me to participate in as her biographer. She would call me and say, “Do you want to go to this movie,” or “I’m having some people over for tea. Would you like to come?” I’d go over…and there would be Gloria Steinem.

So, I didn’t want to remove myself from that location. Joanne went off to Salt Spring Island, and then I finally finished the book, and moved there too. We were there about a decade, then decided we wanted to live in a city, but not a big city.

I knew about the Black history in Nova Scotia. She had grown up in Montreal, but never come to the Maritimes. We decided to move to Halifax. I think that we knew one person here. It was 2012.

During one of my visits, I’d seen the big fence in Halifax that said “Home of the Future Library.” So that was one of the motivating reasons, too!

 

Halifax Public Libraries:

February marks African Heritage Month in Halifax. What about The Color Purple event series do you feel might resonate most for people in Halifax?

Evelyn C. White:

It would be my understanding of the roots of the African Nova Scotian community—which of course, I’m not a part of, but was one of the reasons that I was drawn to Nova Scotia and Halifax in particular—is that there are agrarian roots. They lived in rural areas, many were farmers, there was a very prominent African Nova Scotian basket maker that I’ve just been learning about, Edith Clayton. There was a time when many African Nova Scotian women in the Prestons, Lake Loon, and Cherrybrook would come over to Halifax on the ferry, bringing farm produce in baskets. The Black Loyalists, who were in Birchtown, they tried to live off the land, which proved to be impossible.

So, I think, as with all people from the African diaspora, our roots are agrarian. We’ve all come from agrarian cultures and societies: farmers, fishers, hunters, gatherers. If you go back far enough, all of our ancestors worked the land. And then, they were forced to work the land on plantations, under enslavement.

So, The Color Purple, the novel and the movie, represent the Black, agrarian history. And that was one of the criticisms of the film, which is very interesting to me. That that part of our heritage in the “new world,” until the time of The Color Purple, had mainly been seen only as painful and abusive. Which of course it was, but that wasn’t the whole story.

What Alice did, was she told the story of Black farmers who were not under the whip of slave masters. That part of the history—the movement away from being taken from Africa, being forced to work on plantations, of coming to places like Nova Scotia and not getting any love—you know, she said “That’s part of the story, but it’s not the whole story.”

So here we see this Black family, living in a rural setting, like her family did, and trying to have love. But societal forces come in. The image—the opening scene of the Black girls in the field of purple flowers—when they saw it, people just gasped. Because usually, in films, up until then, Blaxsploitation films focused on things like drug dealers and pimps in the city. That was the main image that was coming out. So, to have a film about Black people that opened with 2 girls doing pattycake—it just was not seen.

The Color Purple

I think this series will resonate, especially with African Nova Scotians of a certain generation who grew up seeing their parents and grandparents farming or making barrels and baskets. All that history here was wonderful for me to get to know.

Hearing about Africville, one of the most moving things to me, was the image of the garbage truckopens a new window. But then, also an image of Black kids picking blueberries. It was something I never did, growing up in the city. When people talk about Africville, fond, loving memories can be overshadowed by greater mental images. Like Shauntay Grant’s book, Africville, there’s nature there.

Africville

Alice would say, “We have agency. Sure. You have to take responsibility.” But as she also said, what people never talk about in the novel, is how Mr. is transformed by the end. He’s sitting, he’s sewing with Celie, they’re talking about the stars. Alice said, “Why is it, when men are doing things that are not mean, abusive, or violent, that they are not seen as a man?”

I think that message resonated. I first saw the film when it came out, in Arizona. And then, the first time I saw it on video, I was with my 2 housemates, 2 white people from affluent families. We’re sitting on the couch, and I can hear the sobbing. It’s Daniel, my friend’s boyfriend. It touched him so much, and reminded him of his family and when his parents got divorced.

Now here’s a man who you would see walking down the streets of San Francisco and think, “He’s so far removed from African-American, poor, rural, abusive life,” and he’s sitting here on my floor crying at this movie.

And, I think what people forget is that movie, in the opening credits, it said “Introducing Whoopi Goldberg.” It was her first movie. And Oprah had not yet been in a movie.

It just had this huge, milestone, landmark impact in so many ways. And I think people here can relate to that.

 

Halifax Public Libraries:

You’re taking part in 2 conversations during the Library’s The Color Purple series (Purple is Black Blooming with Portia Clark and Keonté Beals, and From Book to Stage with Neptune Theatre). What do you hope comes out of those conversations? 

Evelyn C. White:

As a newcomer to Nova Scotia and as a journalist, I get a lot of information and certain names would always jump out to me. And so, I saw the name “Beals,” with something, and it was about Keonté Beals doing the song “I’m Here,” from The Color Purple Musical. I played it, and I was overwhelmed.

I’ve never asked him directly about how that came to be, even though we’ve been in communication, but he says, “Oh, there’s a story.” So, I thought it would be great to invite him to participate. As this young songwriter, he chose this song. And I was interested. A lot of things I do, it’s because I’m interested.

I also remember hearing Portia Clark on CBC before she got officially hired. Somehow, I came to know she was of African Descent. I have since, spent a little bit of time with her, and I don’t know very much about her, but thought, how wonderful and meaningful to have this woman who grew up here to be a part of this.

I haven’t had a lot of discussion with either of them, so I think it will be an opportunity for people to see various perspectives and voices of people of African Descent who are now in Halifax.

I had no idea that Neptune was going to be doing the musicalopens a new window, and one day, people who knew I’d written this book started emailing and texting me. I was like, “No way!” I was just as overwhelmed, and proud and excited to hear about it.

Then, I contacted Alice and told her, “Neptune Theatre here in Halifax, they’re launching the Canadian premiere of the musical.” She just laughed and said, “And you’re there!” It’s just this wonderful, cosmic confluence of events.

I was at the opening performance of the musical in 2004. They’d had a tryout of it in Atlanta, Georgia to get the kinks out. It was amazing to be there in that audience. And of course, Alice is from Georgia.

By that time, I’d been a witness to, and sort of researched the backlash to the movie. People boycotting, picket lines, it was horrible. So, to have been cognizant of the whole trajectory of the book and the movie, and to sit in the audience in Atlanta and have people give her a standing ovation—was deeply moving.

Shug and Celie have this kiss, and do a love song to each other, and people just cheered.

Then, the show moved to Broadway and I was invited to that. And saw it in this big, fancy theatre.

I’ll never forget, I was in the lobby with all the people, and there are cameras and a red carpet. I’m standing there, and Tina Turner walks by. Everybody was there. All these celebrities.

 

Halifax Public Libraries:

We know that you love libraries. What meaning have libraries held in your life?

Evelyn C. White:

I grew up in this all Black community, Gary Indiana—the same as Michael Jackson.

It was a brand new school I went to from Kindergarten through to Grade 6. And I don’t think the resource centre was completely finished, so there was a bookmobile that would come to the school. You’d go inside and get books. I remember going into this little bus and choosing books like Curious George and all that, and just being so happy to have these books. I’d take them home and would restrain myself from reading them because I was such a fast reader, and I’d want to keep them as long as possible.

Then, eventually, there was a real resource centre, and I’d always check books out. And there was a brand new, big central library downtown. I’d go downtown to pay bills and get things on layaway, and I’d always go to the library. I remember, there was a sort of darkness to it, not well lit. But there were Black people there, running the library. Librarians, clerks. They looked like me.

I just love libraries. In high school, I remember reading To Kill a Mockingbird, and I’d always done well on book reports. As I went on to college, I’d go to the library and there would be everything you could ever want. I remember when they built a new library in San Francisco, going from the old card catalogue to new technology.

Then as a journalist, I would review lots of books and get books for free, and I would always pass those on to other people.

I’ve always been drawn to libraries. They’re free. They welcome everyone. You can learn. There are all these services now. You can drink coffee now and have your sandwich.

I didn’t grow up in the South, but my parents did. So, I understood that in the 1930s there was what was called The Great Migration—people leaving the oppression. My parents were part of that.

I remember reading this novel by the Black writer, Richard Wright, called Native Son. Very well known, classic Black literature. He grew up in the segregated South. Books were very important to him, but hard to come by.

Native Son

I later read something about that made a huge impression on me.

Wright was living in Memphis when his serious immersion in literature began, but he could not get books from the public library. So he persuaded a sympathetic, though puzzled, white man to lend him his library card, and he forged a note for himself to present to the librarian: “Dear Madam: Will you please let this nigger boy have some books by H. L. Mencken?” The New Yorkeropens a new window

I remember thinking, “That’s how vital literature is, and knowledge, that he would demean himself that way.” But that was the vernacular of the day, and he was being authentic. That had a huge impact on me, understanding the importance of reading and literature.

And of course, through my work with Alice Walker, who grew up in a segregated rural community, I’d go to that community several times. One day, I’m in that library where there are pictures of Alice Walker, a whole shelf for her. And it dawned on me: “This is a library that Alice Walker could not have walked in as a child, and now, look.”

The arc of history and the movement of it, often through literature and books, shows the impact they can have in a real and individual life, and then a cultural and institutional life. To go from a Black child who could not set foot in this place, and now she’s honoured. And the space is filled with Black children and white children who know who she is and are reading her children’s books, with no concept that it used to be different.

You don’t have to have money to go to the library. You don’t have to have status or a degree. You don’t have to be a big donor to the library. You don’t have to speak English, French, German, whatever. You’re free to come as you are and be enriched—in more and more ways every year.

 

Halifax Public Libraries:

What’s been the impact on your life, writing this biography?

Evelyn C. White:

When I think back on it now, my journey as Alice’s biographer and how it all came about, it’s “What was I thinking?” and, “Where did that impetus come from?” And, it was such a large thing to do. I understand that now.

Maybe I would have gone forward with this idea if I hadn’t been in that room at the reception when she gave her speech. Maybe I would have.

But it was central. The fact that I was an eyewitness to that moment.

I think that that aspect of being fully present of where you are, when you are, and what’s going on; is eroding because so many people are not fully present in the moment. They’re on their phone, they’re not fully aware of their surroundings.

And I think I was able to make that leap because I’d been fully present in that moment. That’s where it came from. From understanding that I was in this pivotal moment for me as a journalist.

I think that’s the main reason it happened. I was fully present in the moment. And I think that’s a good message to get out to people, because so many are distracted.

You never know when the cosmic forces, or the cultural forces, are putting you in a place that will give you an opportunity to do something that is really large—for you.

There was part of me that was always in pursuit of an opportunity to be my best self. And I think all of us in some way are like that. You work, you make connections, you get jobs, you have ideas. From the outsider perspective, I had a wonderful job in a wonderful city. But still, there was a barrier to me being my best self, because I had to answer to my editors.

“How can I get free? How can I get free? How can I get free?” was in the back of my mind. And then the cosmic forces put me at that reception. And then I did, step by step, what I needed to do.

People have said to me, “Alice Walker must really trust you.” And to that I say, “That is really true. But the more salient point is, that Alice Walker really trusts herself.” She trusted herself to invite someone else in to be in her life for a decade.

That has to do with being fully present in your life. She’s fully present in all the pain and sorrow of her life. And wanting to honour her family. I think, we can get so focused on “Me, me, me” and it’s much, much broader.

 

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