Book Review: The World Has Changed: Conversations with Alice Walker
by Alice Walker
Publication Date: Nov 08, 2011
List Price: $18.95 (store prices may vary)
Page Count: 368
Imprint: The New Press
Publisher: The New Press
Parent Company: The New Press
Book Reviewed by Thumper
The World Has Changed: Conversation with
Alice Walker edited by Rudolph Byrd is a type of book that I had not
seen before, a book of interviews. Editor Rudolph Byrd compiled a group of
interviews featuring Alice Walker that spanned Walker's entire career as a
published author. I did not know if I could get into a book like this
because it's a 50-50 gamble as to whether the questions I may have asked
Walker, had I the opportunity, were raised. It took me a long time to decide
if I wanted to give this book a try. I finally did, and I'm glad.
Alice Walker is one author that I have mixed feelings about. It's not that I am one who railed against her during the many controversies her writing inspired, like the novel and the movie The Color Purple. I'm going off the beaten path for a minute: I LOVE The Color Purple, always had, always will. When I first became associated with AALBC, I re-read The Color Purple and the book was better the second time around. Personally, I believe that those who dislike the book were ticked because of the truth the story spoke. Second, I believe that the controversies stem from straight up playa hatin.
My disenchantment with Walker stems from interviews I had read of her; she came off as a nut. I did not understand the path she was traveling; the different religions, new age "I'm trying to establish peace" methods. Stuff I found silly. Normally when I see a black person doing that, I start pitying them. Tsk, tsk, that poor son of a bitch can't deal with the "anger". The "anger" comes from being black in America, baby. We all got it. No one can help being deeply scarred by living in America while black. Some have tried to deal with it in many ways, with varying degrees of success and failures. I'd rather swallow it and let it pass through than to let it get stuck in my throat to slowly suffocate me while past images and regrets flow through my eyes as I lay dying. So, I'm like Alice, can you just acknowledge the "anger" and get over it. But, after reading The World Has Changed, I now know that I had totally missed the boat.
The interviews, when read together, show the growth of Walker, not as a writer, solely, but as an artist. The first interviews take place in the early 1970s and span to an interview in 2005. From Walker's answers, I saw her evolve from the young writer, with a helluva lot to say to an artist who seeks truth, and knows that it has many forms, and has rock solid confident in her abilities, her talent and the knowledge that she does not know every damn thing. The elements of the world that catches her interest, she focuses on with laser precision and explore every conceivable angle. It's something to witness.
One thing about the book that could not be avoided, due to the nature of the book, but really pissed me off just the same, was Walker being asked the same questions over and over again. Man, I did not realize that many interviewers don't research the subject's previous interviews. I was ready to lose it if Walker got asked one more time how she became a writer. To her credit, Walker would go through the story over and over again. On one hand, I wish Byrd would have cut out the repetitive stuff. I realize why he didn't and I understand it. But, it didn't make me feel any better about it.
The only question I have after reading this book can not be answered by Walker; it can only be answered by her daughter: how was it growing up having an artist as a mother? I'm a fan, so my relationship with Walker is on another plane than that of her child. Walker publishes a book, I read it, and then we're done. I would like to ask her daughter, did you get to be noisy when you wanted to, or were there times when you had to be quiet, or did you ever wish your mother was like other mothers, all that kind of stuff. My impression of an artist is that he has to be self centered and selfish with his time and attention, two traits that doesn't lend itself well to parenting. It is not that the artist is being inconsiderate or mean or vindictive. It's simply the cost of being an artist. A child doesn't know that.
The World Has Changed is a remarkable book by showing the evolution of Alice Walker as an artist through a series of interviews. From the interviews I can see the journey Walker is on, the lessons she is learning. It's fascinating to watch. Yeah, the world has changed and Alice Walker changed it.