Anything We Love Can Be Saved: A Writer's Activism

Anything We Love Can Be Saved: A Writer's Activism

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by Alice Walker

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In Anything We Love Can Be Saved, Alice Walker writes about her life as an activist, in a book rich in the belief that the world is saveable, if only we will act. Speaking from her heart on a wide range of topics—religion and the spirit, feminism and race, families and identity, politics and social change—Walker begins with a moving

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In Anything We Love Can Be Saved, Alice Walker writes about her life as an activist, in a book rich in the belief that the world is saveable, if only we will act. Speaking from her heart on a wide range of topics—religion and the spirit, feminism and race, families and identity, politics and social change—Walker begins with a moving autobiographical essay in which she describes her own spiritual growth and roots in activism. She goes on to explore many important private and public issues: being a daughter and raising one, dreadlocks, banned books, civil rights, and gender communication. She writes about Zora Neale Hurston and Salman Rushdie and offers advice to Bill Clinton. Here is a wise woman's thoughts as she interacts with the world today, and an important portrait of an activist writer's life.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Walker's commitment to activism-in its myriad cultural, political and spiritual forms-shines forth convincingly in this wide-ranging collection of personal essays, remarks, letters, speeches and statements, many previously published. Tracing her advocacy to an ancestor, May Poole-a former slave who outlived most of her owners and died at the age of 125-Walker channels her own "love of nature and... delight in human beings" into thoughtfully selected and well-defended causes. The most affecting pieces celebrate her spirituality, influenced by her early experiences with family and the local church; the challenge of raising her daughter, Rebecca, now a young adult; and the graduating seniors Walker lovingly addressed with 16 poems of encouragement at a recent Spelman College commencement. Her well-documented indignation over the controversial practice of female genital mutilation appears here, as well as her less-publicized but unmistakably passionate support of Fidel Castro. Walker's varied subjects include a visit to Carl Jung's Swiss retreat, the Million Man March, dreadlocks and the craft of writing. She honors various authors and artists, including Zora Neale Hurston, Salman Rushdie and the musical group Sweet Honey in the Rock. Constantly testing and stretching her readers' imaginations and boundaries, Walker expresses her warmth, her anger, her optimism in this provocative, lively collection.
Library Journal
Noted African American writer Walker has strung together a little bit of everything here, using her activism as a unifying thread. She includes her work against the practice of female genital mutilation, already well known, as well as less well-publicized opinions like her devoted support of Fidel Castro, whom she sees as "a person with immense spiritual power," "a secular `priest' who finally picked up the gun." That Walker writes better fiction than nonfiction is evident in the first section of this book, where she quotes a long selection from The Color Purple. This latest offering is not the place to start with Walker's work, but it is recommended where there will be demand for anything by her. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/96.]Mary Paumier Jones, Rochester P.L., N.Y.
School Library Journal
YAStudents pondering the possibilities of becoming writers will embrace this account of one famous writer's odyssey. For poet and novelist Alice Walker, activism and writing are one. Her strong quest for justice resonates eloquently in deed as well as word in this collection of eclectic essays. Wide ranging and anecdotal, they cover topics as diverse as her cat; the scars on the face of Samuel Zan, general secretary of Amnesty International; the "Goddess-given" autonomy of women; and thoughts on an American film, Follow Me Home. Concrete, energetic, and clear, the author's sentences prove that George Orwell is right: "Never use a long word when a short one will do." The result is highly readable, albeit with Walker's lyrical touch: "My heart is by now in its rightful place, in proximity to my hands, which are made to reach out, as I write, to all those around me." And reach out she does, with a thoughtful, original selection of subjects illustrating a mind at work, evolving as she practices the writer's craft. This collection will be highly valued.Margaret Nolan, W. T. Woodson High School, Fairfax, VA
Elizabeth Judd
Anything We Love Can Be Saved is the literary equivalent of a garage sale. Loosely held together by its subtitle, A Writer's Activism, the subjects of Walker's essays, letters and speeches bear little in common except having briefly snagged the author's attention. Side by side stand highly personal mini-polemics on dreadlocks, Fidel Castro, the phrase "you guys," the use of pregnant mare urine in an estrogen-replacement drug, Salman Rushdie, African cinema and a blue bowl Walker's mother used. One would have to be an awfully loyal Alice Walker fan to be engaged by her rambling observations on whatever issue seems to fall in her path, especially since Walker hasn't strained herself searching for exciting new material. To the contrary, she liberally cites her own earlier writings, even quoting five pages of The Color Purple at a single stretch.

Amid the jumble are a handful of essays that do charm. My favorite is, surprisingly enough, an essay about Walker's longing for feline companionship. "Five years ago I decided I was ready to share my life with a cat. I had had cats before, but things had gone wrong," begins Walker. She then details her checkered past with two needy strays that cried ceaselessly while the writer meditated or worked. Despite her dismal track record (both cats were given the boot), Walker describes the hard-won peace she forges with the garrulous Frida in a nicely understated parable about accepting oneself and one's chosen companions, flaws and all.

Although Walker's tales of daily life can be amusing, some of her political speeches are sloppy. Off-the-cuff pronouncements are fine for the commencements or rallies where they were originally delivered, but they're tedious in print. Worse, when Walker rails against the West African practice of female genital mutilation, she squanders her opportunity to reach a broad audience by making her case far too subjectively, comparing the partial blinding she suffered in a childhood accident to the sexual "blinding" experienced by African women. Walker's wounded eye is such a weird and distracting metaphor for genital mutilation that it blinded me to her putative subject -- the widespread and sometimes fatal practice of female circumcision and infibulation.

As you read this collection, you can't help comparing Walker's work to that of another writer-activist -- Grace Paley. Paley's short stories and essays are so sturdily crafted that the social issues addressed become witty, alive and worth treasuring, while the pieces in Anything We Love often seem as worn and sad as castoffs that nobody's buying.--Salon

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Random House Publishing Group
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5.53(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.55(d)

What People are saying about this

Gloria Steinem
Just when you think Alice Walker has empathized her way as far as any writer can go -- she goes further. In Anything We Love Can Be Saved, she explores spiritual autobiography, self-betrayal in language, Hugging Castro, activism inspired by love, and much more. Each essay is a gift.
Clarissa Pinkola Estes
Alice Walker is a true warrior....Her father taught her that "it is possible for the word to become mightier than the sword." She passes the legacy on, with straight aim, and sweet compassion.

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