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"Superb...a work to stand beside literature of any time and place."
--San Francisco Chronicle, about The Color Purple
"Just when you think Alice Walker has empathized her way as far as any writer can go, she goes further....Each essay is a gift."
--Gloria Steinem, about Anything We Love Can Be Saved
"[Alice Walker] is exceptionally brave: She takes on subjects at which most writers would flinch and quail, and probably fail. She shrinks from no moral or emotional complexity, and she writes consummately skillful short stories....In Walker's work nothing is ordinary....She is a marvelous writer."
--San Francisco Chronicle, about You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down
"A writer of staggering talent."
--New York Newsday
To My Young Husband: Memoir of a Marriage
A few days ago I went to see the little house on R. Street where we were so happy. Before traveling back to Mississippi I had not thought much about it. It seemed so far away, almost in another dimension. Whenever I did remember the house it was vibrant, filled with warmth and light, even though, as you know, a lot of my time there was served in rage, in anger, in hopelessness and despair. Days when the white white walls, cool against the brutal summer heat, were more bars than walls.
You do not talk to me now, a fate I could not have imagined twenty years ago. It is true we say the usual greetings, when we have to, over the phone: How are you? Have you heard from Our Child? But beyond that, really nothing. Nothing of the secrets, memories, good and bad, that we shared. Nothing of the laughter that used to creep up on us as we ate together late at night at the kitchen table -- perhaps after one of your poker games -- and then wash over us in a cackling wave. You were always helpless before anything that struck you as funny, and I reveled in the ease with which, urging each other on, sometimes in our own voices, more often in a welter of black and white Southern and Brooklyn and Yiddish accents -- which always felt as if our grandparents were joking with each other -- we'd crumple over our plates laughing, as tears came to our eyes. After tallying up your winnings -- you usually did win -- and taking a shower -- as I chatted with you through the glass -- you'd crawl wearily into bed. We'd roll toward each other's outstretched arms, still chuckling, and sleep the sleep of the deeply amused.
I went back with the woman I love now. She had never been South, never been to Mississippi, though her grandparents are buried in one of the towns you used to sue racists in. We took the Natchez Trace from Memphis, stopping several times at points of interest along the way. Halfway to Jackson we stopped at what appeared to be a large vacant house, with a dogtrot that intrigued us from the road. But when we walked inside two women were quietly quilting. One of them was bent over a large wooden frame that covered most of the floor, like the one my mother used to have; the other sat in a rocking chair stitching together one of the most beautiful crazy quilts I've ever seen. It reminded me of the quilt I made while we were married, the one made of scraps from my African dresses. The huge dresses, kaftans really, that I sewed myself and wore when I was pregnant with Our Child.
The house on R. Street looked so small I did not recognize it at first. It was nearly dark by the time we found it, and sitting in a curve as it does it always seemed to be seeking anonymity. The tree we planted when Our Child was born and which I expected to tower over me, as Our Child now does, is not there; one reason I did not recognize the house. When I couldn't decide whether the house I was staring at was the one we used to laugh so much in, I went next door and asked for the Belts. Mrs. Belt (Did I ever know her name and call her by it? Was it perhaps Mildred?) opened the door. She recognized me immediately. I told her I was looking for our house. She said: That's it. She was surrounded by grandchildren. The little girl we knew, riding her tricycle about the yard, has made her a grandmother many times over. Her hair is pressed and waved, and is completely gray. She has aged. Though I know I have also, this shocks me. Mr. Belt soon comes to the door. He is graying as well, and has shaved his head. He is stocky and assertive. Self-satisfied. He insists on hugging me, which, because we've never hugged before, feels strange. He offers to walk me next door, and does.
Its gate is the only thing left of the wooden fence we put up. The sweet gum tree that dominated the backyard and turned to red and gold in autumn is dying. It is little more than a trunk. The yard itself, which I've thought of all these years as big, is tiny. I remember our dogs: Myshkin, the fickle beloved, stolen, leaving us to search and search and weep and weep; and Andrew, the German shepherd with the soulful eyes and tender heart, whose big teeth frightened me after Our Child was born.
continued . . .
Excerpted from The Way Forward Is with a Broken Heart by Alice Walker Copyright © 2000 by Alice Walker. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
|To My Young Husband|
|To My Young Husband||3|
|Orelia and John|
|There Was a River|
|There Was a River||105|
|Big Sister, Little Sister|
|Uncle Loaf and Auntie Putt-Putt||113|
|This Is How It Happened|
|This Is How It Happened||169|
|The Brotherhood of the Saved||175|
|The Way Forward Is with a Broken Heart|
|Epilogue: The Way Forward Is with a Broken Heart||197|
Called "one of the best American writers of today" by The Washington Post, Alice Walker is beloved, and The Way Forward Is with a Broken Heart, with its insights into Walker's own private life and philosophy, presents a side of the author her readers have not yet seen.
Read an excerpt and be sure to join us on Wednesday, October 11th at 7pm ET for our live chat with the author.
1. In the Jim Crow South, whites had daily, often intimate contact with blacks whom they trusted to work in their homes and care for their children. Given that context, what was their rationale for en-acting laws against interracial marriage?
2. What are some of the societal messages put forth about interracial relationships today?
3. How does the epistolary technique have an impact on the narrative in ÒTo My Young HusbandÓ?
4. What can be learned from the experiences of biracial children in an increasingly diverse society?
5. In ÒKindred SpiritsÓ the narrator makes reference to Cuban immi-grants in the United States. Discuss the Cuban revolution and its impact on American politics.
6. Discuss the relationship between Marcella, Angel, and Sally as depicted in ÒThere Was a River.Ó How would you handle such a scenario?
7. How is the subject of pornography addressed in ÒThe Brotherhood of the SavedÓ? Is it possible to limit access to pornography without breaching First Amendment rights?
8. If you brought your gift to Alice Walker, what would it be?
Posted March 5, 2001
This book, as all Alice Walker's books are, was absolutly exquisite. Her use of language, imagry and experience made this book a pleasure to read. The personal letters from Walker to her 'Young Husband' were especially poigient. The ability of Walker to weave different characters and different story lines into one amazing novel once again demonstrates her unmatched talent as a writer. I highly recomend this, and all, of Alice Walker's books.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 23, 2001
I saw each short story as being significant to real life drama. Alice Walker made the reader think and you reminiscence about every love affair you've encountered. Walker allows you to remember how life was before the revolution. A critic, a fan, or just a plan old Malik or Moesha has to give credit where it's due with 'The Way Forward is with A Broken Heart.' Walker writes with no fear about the way it is and gives her blantant point of view. I honestly, love Alice Walker and her unique writing style.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 8, 2010
No text was provided for this review.