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In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: Womanist Prose

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  7,600 ratings  ·  221 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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 ·  7,600 ratings  ·  221 reviews

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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
Mar 05, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: black-writers
4.5 stars /// This essay collection is fucking amazing! Published in 1983, In Search of Our Mother's Gardens is composed of 36 separate pieces (essays, articles, reviews, statements, and speeches) that were written by Alice Walker between 1966 and 1982. It is incredible how many different facets of Walker's life and thought are packed into this one collection. The pieces speak of (Black) womanhood and creativity, but there are also more "political" musings on anti-Semitism, Palestine, the Civil ...more
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.
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
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. ...more
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. ...more
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.
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
Alice Walker has gathered some of her best womanist short writing here: essays, articles, interviews, addresses, poetry. Here Walker writes of topics dear to her heart, including black social revolution, motherhood, selfhood, community.

Being a feminist woman of color, womanist writing has appealed to me most of my adulthood. As a young woman I read this collection, gathering information, finding voice. Throat Chakra.

Now I read In Search of Our Mother's Gardens as an aging woman, pondering in my
B Sarv
Aug 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens

Before reading this collection of essays by Prof. Alice Walker I had read two of her novels: “A Color Purple” and “The Temple of My Familiar” - both novels that I really loved. I had also read her collection of poetry entitled “Once” and I read “Revolutionary Petunias” contemporaneously with this book. Two things that I really enjoy about reading the non-fiction essays of a writer like Prof. Walker are: 1) the opportunity to have an insight into the life and mind
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
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
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 ...more
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!
reading is my hustle
This book made me cry. Poetry and essays on civil-rights, feminism, motherhood. Alice Walker rules.
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
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.
Apr 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is great stuff, criticism, reminiscences, thoughts, anecdotes and history. Walker is at once friendly and comforting, and outraged and challenging. If you ever felt The Colour Purple was written by the ghost of Zora Neale Hurston you should read this. It explains a lot.
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
Danielle Charlemagne
May 19, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Canonical, a must-read for any scholar serious about Black women’s studies but written for the historian in us all. Alice Walker is a living archive. In easy-to-read prose, she, though not uncritically, points us back to our artists and literary foremothers, the “gardens” their lives produced, so that we might continue to carry their living into our own work. Writing, thinking, Walker’s essays in this collection (which span a period of incredible political and cultural change, 1966-1982) model t ...more
Oct 14, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This book is a compilation of essays, book reviews, autobiographical recollections, and pieces of socio-biological history and personal philosophy from Ms. Walker's point of view. It took me quite awhile to read it because it is enlightening, educational, and important, every bit of it. I learned so much about black authors whose voices have been kept silent, like Zora Neale Hurston. There is a chapter about how Ms. Walker went to find Ms. Hurston's grave that I will never forget. There is a cha ...more
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
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
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. ...more
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. ...more
Madeleine Barnes
Dec 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
“Why did it mean for a Black woman to be an artist in our grandmothers’ time? In our great-grandmothers’ day? It is a question with an answer cruel enough to stop the blood.”

Nothing I can write here will do justice to this incredible book. My mother and grandmother are both artists, and I relate to Walker’s curiosity about her mother’s garden, which seems at first to her like an outlet for buried creativity. What gets in the way of women’s work? Walker speaks from the depths of oppression. Her e
Hope Harrington
Aug 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: on-my-shelf
This is my new favorite book. Alice Walker is such a radical, hardcore woman. Everyone read this immediately.

"The mountain of despair has dwindled, and the stone of hope has size and shape, and can be fondled by the eyes and by the hand. But freedom has always been an elusive tease and in the very act of grabbing for it one can become shackled.

"When I didn't write, I thought of making bombs and throwing them. Of shooting racists. Of doing away as painlessly and neatly as possible (except when I
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.
Emma Colón
Apr 21, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
this collection of essays has filled me to the brim. it is the purest celebration of writers, honesty, mystery, and Spirit. it simultaneously scrapes out ugly wounds and heals like a salve. ben okri says it best [of the collection]: "what she says about the black woman she says from the depths of oppression. what is said from the depths of oppression illuminates all the other oppressions". i am absolutely blown away by this collection. if you are a writer or simply a lover of the earth as our ho ...more
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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

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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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