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  1. Essay Alice Walker's In Search of Our Mother's Gardens
  2. In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: Womanist Prose in Essays Essays Essays at Strand Books
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Her latest book, ''In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens,'' a collection of essays and lectures, reinforces that prominence and clarifies the themes of her earlier writings, allowing her audience to reconsider both the value of her work and its literary heritage. In the long essay ''Looking for Zora,'' Walker writes movingly and with humor of her visit to Eatonville, Fla.

There, Ms. Walker introduced herself as Hurston's niece, and so met people that Hurston knew. As Hurston's presence returns often in this collection, so do those of Walker's characters and family members. There is generally a blunt honesty in Walker's work and these essays spare neither her family nor herself. She writes of the double standard of sexual conduct within her family, and her estrangement from her father, which lasted until after his death. Other people represented here include her former husband, her daughter, and other family members, and her experiences with and about them well explicate the characters in her novels and poems.

The poems in Walker's first book, ''Once,'' owe much to the Japanese haiku. They are pictures of Africa's landscapes, the harshness of the early civil rights movement, and portraits of friends and lovers. As do many poems of that era, they show rather than tell of an immediate experience.

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Her poems in both collections do not contain the polemics of poets like Don L. Lee or Sonia Sanchez, who seemed to feel that a strong black family was the answer to racism, and that relationships within the black community were beyond reproach. Like Hurston, Walker was always aware of the problems of personal relations of her men and women and sought to understand, rather than excuse or ignore, them.

She writes knowledgeably about sharecroppers, factory workers, blues singers, and the elderly and uses the poetic medium to isolate and study themes that are later developed in her novels and stories. In her first collection of stories, ''In Love and Trouble,'' her women characters confront church, voodoo, men who love books more than they do their wives, and encounter death and visions of Jesus on a dirt road. The title story of Walker's second collection, ''You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down,'' depicts a white rock singer and a black blues singer who age together in a relationship that is deeper than the cultures each represents but fails to understand.

Essay Alice Walker's In Search of Our Mother's Gardens

Also from this collection, ''Porn'' is a satire that is really about sexual relationships, and ''Fame'' is about an aging writer's bitterness. Other stories about rape and abortion dramatize the ambiguous relationship between racism and sexism, and the options provided to men in all circumstances regardless of race. Walker's stories do, nonetheless, suggest the possibility of reconciliation between the genders. Grange Copeland, who deserts his family and later returns as a more responsible person, finds that his son lives a life even worse than the one he had left years before.

It also demonstrates the problems beyond racism and social ills that individuals must confront.

In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: Womanist Prose in Essays Essays Essays at Strand Books

In ''The Color Purple,'' two women survive separation and loss of children and family to discover that a loving relationship can exist between men and women. This novel provides both a peace and a conclusion to the conflicts Walker depicts in her earlier works, and here the racial aspect has been removed, leaving the black characters to confront one another.

Walker has said that black women are more loyal to their men than to themselves, and her blacks are individuals. She never condescends to create them otherwise. If it can be said to be 'about' anything, then it is. Review Posted Online: Oct. Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. Quite Happy.

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