UNCW Hosts a Conversation with Alice Walker

Monday, July 07, 2014

Alice Walker knew her purpose at a young age. When she was a child, she would often write in the dirt with a twig in the backyard of her home.

"I was aware early," Walker told a group of educators and students gathered on July 2 at the Wilmington Convention Center. "I knew that I had something to do. I had to develop in order to foster whatever gifts were meant to come through me."

Walker, an award-winning author, poet, educator and activist, was the guest speaker during a special workshop co-sponsored by the UNCW Honors College, Watson College of Education, College of Arts and Sciences, Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, the  Department of English, Department of Sociology and Criminology and the History Department. It was a part of the "Celebrating the Dream" events organized by the Brunswick County Countywide Community Development Center in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.  

The workshop, titled "A Conversation with Alice Walker," was an opportunity to broaden the university's involvement in the community, said Katherine Montwieler, chair of the UNCW Department of English. It was also a chance to honor a current literary figure and create educational experiences for UNCW's students, faculty and staff.

"At a time when the humanities, and particularly literary writing, are under attack, it's wonderful to show how literary fiction can teach ethics, can model civil engagement and offer us a forum to understand each other; to think critically and constructively about the world we live in," said Montwieler.

Walker's publications include seven novels, four collections of short stories, four children’s books and volumes of essays and poetry. She is known for her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Color Purple, which also won the National Book Award. The novel was adapted for Steven Spielberg’s 1985 film and later an award-winning Broadway play.

Victor Malo-Juvera, an assistant professor of English, served as moderator. He asked questions that were submitted prior to the start of the workshop. They ranged from advice for aspiring writers, views on censorship and the controversy surrounding Common Core standards.

Walker also addressed the attempt to remove The Color Purple from the reading lists in Brunswick County schools.

"Art is supposed to open your eyes to the realities of other people's lives,” she said. “How else are you going to know?"

"In this culture, we seem to think that information is all that we need to know. It's not," she said.  "You need to have emotion, you need to have feeling, you need to have caring, and you need to know how people communicate. You need to grow. It's about learning and experiencing the whole world that you live in."