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In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: Womanist Prose

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  6,781 ratings  ·  152 reviews
In this, her first collection of nonfiction, Alice Walker speaks out as a black woman, writer, mother, and feminist in thirty-six pieces ranging from the personal to the political. Among the contents are essays about other writers, accounts of the civil rights movement of the 1960s and the antinuclear movement of the 1980s, and a vivid memoir of a scarring childhood injury ...more
Paperback, 416 pages
Published May 17th 2004 by Mariner Books (first published 1983)
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4.24  · 
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 ·  6,781 ratings  ·  152 reviews


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Cheryl
Alice Walker's life and writing legacy intrigues me. I stayed with this book longer than I normally would have, since some parts of me couldn't let it go. Walker always seems to speak to my experience, to my trajectory, and her words both console and exhort. Yet she's speaking to a larger audience, to America, to the world. For her career starts from Georgia to Mississippi, to California and Cuba, to sub-Saharan Africa and Europe. Like Baldwin and Hughes, she was well-traveled, so when she spoke ...more
Ifeyinwa
Jan 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It took me about a month to finish this incredibly powerful and convicting collection (it's dense and contains a lot of essays, speeches and statements), but I am so glad to have read it. Walker covers so much! From her search for Zora Neale Hurston's grave to reflections on female writers who walked before us and more.

One thing that is impossible to ignore in this wholesome collection is Walker's devotion to black female writers- a deep appreciation for them and a reverence for their work.
Meen
Aug 02, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Meen by: "Looking for Zora" was in Best American Essays of the 20th C.
Some of these feel a little dated now, but many of them are still so relevant, and that was actually kind of depressing. The ones from the '60s and '70s, talking about what were then still fairly new movements for racial and women's justice, in light of all the advances that the neo-cons and patriarchal and racist fundies made from Reagan one, and now with the ignorant racist teabaggers, ugh, just soooo depressing. The lesson I take from reading these now is that we can never, ever stop fighting ...more
Latasha
Sep 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
A book of essays by Ms. Walker, who is one of my favorite authors. My favorite ones are the ones with reference to Zora Neale Hurston. This if full of ideas that may usually be linked to feminism, but Walker instead coins the term "womanism" as she feels black women were left out of the feminist movement dominated by white women.
Torimac
May 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I do not remember anything about this book except one lesson I learned from it: Envisoning your future is the key to overcoming your obstacles. This one factor has been key to the nature of my existence changing from surviving to thriving. Thank you Ms. Alice Walker.
Jeanne
I first read Alice Walker's collected essays, In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: Womanist Prose, shortly after it was released in 1984. Thirty-some years ago, I heard (or remember her saying) that our foremothers were both blocked from realizing their abilities, and redirected their creative urges toward gardening and quilt making. That was a useful insight, one that I've held through the rest of my life.

I reread books with different eyes, though. While Walker did talk about redirected creativit
...more
Emily  O
If you read my recent review of Alice Walker's famous novel The Color Purple, then you'll know that I think she is an excellent novelist. Well, dear readers, the good news is that she is also an incredible essayist. I would encourage teachers everywhere to use her essays in their classrooms as an example of the perfect personal essay (especially Beauty: When the Other Dancer is the Self). If you know me or if you've read my blog, you know that I don't usually read non-fiction. It usually bores m ...more
Lisa Sellers
May 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a huge book for me in my twenties - I love the short story about her looking for Zora Neale Hurston's grave and putting the tombstone on it herself - very inspiring and spoke to so much in my life - she lifts me up as a woman when I need a pick me up, cries with me when I am inconsolable and dance with joy as women do. Awesome book
E. V.  Gross
Nov 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I felt like this was super necessary reading for me as a) a black woman, b) a writer, c) a woman-loving-woman & (burgeoning) womanist, and d) a woman actively seeking to defy categorization while also demanding adequate representation, visibility, and respect in her identity. So powerful. Walker's prose continues to be an inspiration to me and speak to me long after I've left it.
Elizabeth
Feb 24, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: feminism, mamalove, essays
This book made me cry. Poetry and essays on civil-rights, feminism, motherhood. Alice Walker rules.
Andrea
Jul 07, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I am starting to read more womanist literature and hope to get into some research eventually, so if anyone has any recommendations, I would gladly welcome them!
Jorie W
Oct 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Alice Walker, In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens, Pt. 1
This month hasn’t really been a poetry month; I might even dare to say that this year hasn’t been a poetry year. Even though I love the art of poetry, I have more recently found it difficult to connect, especially when I’m not in the mood (by which I mean, I find it hard to write and read poetry when it feels like more important things are going on in the world and in myself. It distresses me that when I’m feeling too deeply, I seem to lose
...more
Johanna
Mar 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
every time i read this it is a different book. this time it was about a black woman in a very particular political/historical moment, between kennedy and reagan, exploring feminism, facing up to old ghosts, and maybe most importantly researching, hunting up hurston and grimke to feed a hunger for ancestors.
Allie Riley
Jun 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Will type up full review later. But suffice it to say, this is phenomenal.
Cara Byrne
Sep 05, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“I fear that many people, including many women, do not know, in fact, what Woman is” (152).

Walker's collection of essays, starting with her first published article from 1967 on the Civil Rights movement to work she wrote in the 1980s about her process as a writer and as a reader of forgotten/overlooked African American's works (including Jean Toomer, Rebecca Jackson, and, of course, her "aunt" Zora Neale Hurston), is a heavy collection that offers a great critical insight into gender, sexuality
...more
Tessyohnka
Jul 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
To future readers of this collection of essays -- first read Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God. I was very happy that I'd read Hurston's book first because so much of Walker's discourse is about Hurston and her book. We read this book for book club and my basic response was the realization that I learned so much from it -- I almost felt as if I should be taking notes -- and for me, that is an enjoyable feeling. So much info about black writers, the Civil Rights movement, and the ...more
Grouchymax
Sep 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I need to re-read this to assign stars (how presumptuous that appears in the face of this sort of book). This collection helped shape the better part of my teenage self, though I wonder if I found validation for my habits (say, "Everyday Use") a bit too conveniently. Regardless of my possible shortcomings in using the works to identify myself, I still feel grateful to Walker for getting her writings into the public's hands.
Theresa
Aug 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Perhaps the best book of essays I've ever read, and one of the first. The title refers to one essay where the author visits the home of female white southern author Flannery O'Connor, now deceased, and discovers a familial connection. I still remember the peacocks on the property, though I've not read (and reread and reread) this book for years.
Mark
Apr 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
“I wonder if America will ever have a place for poor people. It appears they are doomed to be eternal transients.”

“If the Civil Rights Movement is “dead”, and if it gave us nothing else, it gave us each other forever. It gave some of us bread, some of us shelter, some of us knowledge and pride, all of us comfort...It gave us history and men far greater than Presidents. It gave us heroes, selfless men of courage and strength, for our little boys and girls to follow. It gave us hope for tomorrow.
...more
Eliza
Mar 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: next-up
It took me a little over 2 years to complete this book. I savored it, treating every passage I read like a fine dessert I’d never have the pleasure of enjoying again in life.

This is required reading for anyone on the femme spectrum, who refers to themselves as a feminist, for anyone Black, or any combination of the three.

Every woman needs to read this book to truly understand the plight and politics of being a woman - especially a woman who doesn’t look like themselves.

Two years to finish and
...more
Olivia
Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
It taught me a lot about why I love being me, why I love being a woman and why I love being black.
Stephanie
May 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
i took my time with these essays and ended up with pages and pages of notes, i'm not even sure where to start. sometimes you read something, and it's either so true or so specific to your interests or some combination of those things that you can't believe it exists and you get to read it-- this was that kind of book for me. i felt so honored to hear about her process in writing "the color purple", to hear her retell "everything that rises must converge" to her mother, and give her the room to w ...more
Ananya Ghosh
A 3.5/5 since I couldn't finish the whole book and have to base my review on the first 35% of the book that I read, and because Walker is one of my favourite.

This book is a collection of essays, lectures and works of criticisms and focuses on so many diverse things as her inspirations and authors she grew up with, her changed relationships with them and their memories, the essays about Flannery O'Connor and Jean Toomer were great! It felt like getting to know Alice better, and I loved that. I co
...more
Monique
Jul 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: phd-stuff
Walker is a lifelong activist of human rights and founder of the concept of womanism. Walker is an internationally celebrated author with seven novels, four collections of short stories, four children’s books and volumes of essays and poetry.

“I come out of a tradition where those things are valued; where you talk about a woman with big legs and big hips and black skin. I come out of a black community where it was all right to have hips and to be heavy. You didn’t feel that people didn’t like yo
...more
Ji
Nov 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
So much mind blowing, beautifully written prose, written and seeded all across various essays, speeches, and recollections. Searching for the meaning of being a black writer during a tumultuous time in the US history. Coming to terms with being a black feminist writer, Recovering the arts and literature by blacks, who prolifically wrote and portrayed authentic views and represented voices of the south. Reclaiming culture and root of the author back in the south where she grew up.

Spanning coast t
...more
Sarah
Jan 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
The essays in this collection of prose are heavy with the delicateness of feminine power, revealing the strength of and for black women artists. I am not a black woman, so it is very hard to relate to many of the issues Alice discusses in which her mother, grandmother, sisters, friends, etc. went through. While I am aware of the struggles and hardships of the African-American race, I will never fully understand them. I appreciate Alice's ability to present them as immediate works to the fullest, ...more
Graham Oliver
Sep 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays, memoirs
Really compelling to see Alice Walker's genius brought to bear on so many different topics: homosexuality, race, feminism, Israel, Cuba, literary criticism, religion, and more.

Definitely a good book and one you should read, but a few minor notes. I wish there had been heavier editing to cut some of the repetition between pieces (or, like a lot of collections, it should be read one piece at a time with breaks between them to forget the less important parts). Some of the first half of the collecti
...more
Lin
Oct 24, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An essay collection ranging from personal recollections to political one's, from feminism and motherhood to the Civil Rights Movement, Cuba, and Israel.
Alice Walker is an excellent essayist. Her essays are melodious, their topics are -even 30 or 40 years later- still relevant. I learnt a lot about life, feminism, African American culture and literature. Her essay In Search Of Our mother's Gardens should be teached in schools and universities alongside Virginia Woolf. I highly recommend this coll
...more
Mahjong_kid
Jul 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-deborah
This collection of essays made me wish that I knew Alice Walker. Her writing is not only inspiring, beautiful, and passionate, but also horizon-widening to those of us who know too little of the Civil Rights Movement, African-American writers, and the experience of being dark-skinned in a society that so highly prizes pale skin. I really respect the thoughtful way that she writes about the world and her personal experiences, tempering passion with the occasional acknowledgment that there may be ...more
emily
May 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
alice walker is the newest addition to my panoply of gurus. she is totally tapped in to some divine and earthly truths that the rest of us only skim the surface of. so reading her feels like a gift, a meditation, an education, a revelation. this is the second of her essay collections i've read and while some of the material is a little dated, i couldn't help but marvel that so many of these essays were written when she was younger than i am now. such a wise and inspiring woman.
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Alice Walker, one of the United States’ preeminent writers, is an award-winning author of novels, stories, essays, and poetry. In 1983, Walker became the first African-American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for fiction with her novel The Color Purple, which also won the National Book Award. Her other books include The Third Life of Grange Copeland, Meridian, The Temple of My Familiar, and Possessi ...more
“Nobody is as powerful as we make them out to be.” 92 likes
“(a womanist)

3. Loves music. Loves dance. Loves the moon. Loves the Spirit. Loves love and food and roundness. Loves struggle. Loves the Folk. Loves herself. Regardless.”
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