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Lions Roar : November 2013
In 1978, Walker moved to the San Francisco Bay Area. She wanted to leave New York, and she felt a need to go to the coun- tryside, where her characters wanted to be—the ones helping Walker tell their story in the soon-to-be prize-winning novel The Color Purple. The move was a watershed in Walker’s jour- ney as a writer. In 1983, she became the first African American woman to receive the Pulitzer for fiction, the famous author of a book people love or hate or love to hate, even those who’ve never read it, a book that has been praised, blamed, banned from classrooms, made into an Oscar-nominated movie, and staged in a Broadway play. I asked Walker how she feels now about the novel that is so inseparable from her name. Though she rarely goes back to the book herself, she says she’s grateful for the enduring relevance of a story “about God and what your idea of God is and how you have to get rid of the God that has been forced on you, the deaf, blind one who hates you.” Walker was surprised by The Color Purple’s reception—both the accolades and the demonization from those who felt the themes of rape, incest, and love between women were prurient or traitorous and demeaning to black men. Feeling attacked, ostracized, and often misrepresented by what was written about her in the wake of the book’s success, Walker learned to trust her own compass. “The way people speak about you is always a reflection of who and where they are,” she says, quoting Pema Chödrön, one of her teachers. Despite the pain- ful backlash, Walker kept writing. She also founded her own publishing company. Our suffering can bear spiritual fruit, she says now, adding, “Otherwise, I’m not sure we need it.” In the early days of her meditation practice, Walker had a disciplined daily routine. She’d sit and then she’d write. But she doesn’t meditate every day anymore. “Sitting meditation is great, and I’m not knocking it, but I think that state is meant to be integrated,” she says. “That’s where you can live.” Walker reading If You Knew Me You Would Care, a collection of stories and photos of women who have survived war, violence, and poverty. Walker, who was very moved by this book, refers to herself as a “womanist,” a feminist of color. Walker approaches her activist work like a seasoned meditator, neither wholly optimistic nor solely pessimistic. She is committed to making an effort without being attached to results. SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2013 33