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tv   Alice Walker Gathering Blossoms Under Fire - The Journals of Alice...  CSPAN  June 11, 2022 8:00pm-9:02pm EDT

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good evening, everyone. i'm michelle witcher senior program manager of arts and letters live at the dallas museum of art. i'm delighted that all of you have tuned in this evening to hear legendary author alice walker in conversation with kiesi layman. i'd like to begin by recognizing our promotional partners for this event big thought the black academy of arts and letters and young leaders strong city now more than ever. it's an enormous privilege to join forces with such outstanding organizations whose impact on the dallas-fort worth community warrants deep praise. we are indeed stronger together when we join forces additionally. i'd like to recognize the
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educators and the students who've joined us this evening your tenacity dedication and determination during such a tremendously difficult period in history continue to make our communities better and stronger. what an honor it is to feature alice walker in the arts and letters. series the first african-american to win the pulitzer prize for fiction alice walker was born the eighth child of sharecroppers in georgia. she became the valedictorian of her segregated high school class. despite a childhood accident that impaired the vision in her left eye before transferring to sarah lawrence college. she attended atlantis spellman college for two years where she became a political activist met dr. martin luther king jr. and participated in the 1963, march on washington her formidable body of work includes poetry novels short fiction essays and children's stories. her writings have been translated into the language of
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tian copies of her books have been sold worldwide and now gathering blossoms under fire the journals of alice walker edited by the late beloved author valerie boyd affords us access to five decades of ms. walker's extraordinary life stri jones. so beautifully wrote about this collection. alice walker is a truth-telling word working change contouring culture shifting revolutionary artist and citizen of the world. these journals are a revelation a road map and a gift to us all moderating the conversation this evening is kiesi layman recent recipient of the naacp image award for literature for his genre bending novel long division. tsa has been hailed as one of the most powerful new voices in american writing his work includes the essay collection how to slowly kill yourself and others in america. and the best-selling memoir heavy which won the 2019 andrew
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carnegie medal for excellence in nonfiction and was named one of the 50 best memoirs of the past 50 years by the new york times his beautiful writing digs down deep into the human soul. it's truly a pleasure to welcome these two extraordinary authors to arts and letters live. i hope that you enjoy the conversation and that you'll take a moment to add a question for alice in the chat box. thank you all so much for being here tonight before we start we want to encourage you to subscribe to the dma channel, and we also want to encourage you to get all of your questions in the question acts section of youtube. i want to say something before we begin. i've done hundreds of interviews, but i've never done an interview like this before we begin. i just want to thank you miss walker for fighting. so for real she's leave for us
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for loving us, um for giving mississippi a chance and and for really making writers whether you knew it or not. i wanted ones you made i just want everybody know it's gonna be that kind of conversation. we gonna push a little bit, but you don't get to talk to the people who help make you very often. so i just want to start by saying thank you. you. thank you. thank you. and a beautiful being you are too so be your beautiful self. also happy to be here. i wonder if we can start this conversation miss walker talking about friendship. since it's something that you really grapple with wrestle with and actually like dedicate the last movement of the book, too. um, and then talking about friendship. i think we have to talk about valerie boy valerie boy was generous enough to edit the forward that you allowed me to write for the 40th anniversary of a color purple. and and i feel like there's a
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difference between great editors and great friends, but sometimes there's like overlap and i was always taking by the way valerie seem to accept like all parts of me and conversation, but she often found a way to edit even during conversations and when we were editing shoes editing a piece that role for the color purple, she said kissing you're writing this as if you're writing about a revolutionary and you are but she's a revolutionary human who created a revolutionary human book. so one of you can talk about what it was like working with valerie. especially because she left us so recently. well, i think it has to be very rare to meet just the person you trust with your most innermost deepest thoughts and feelings. it has to be felt and i really felt this a gift from the universe. yes out of nowhere in a way here is just when i need this person
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trustworthy smart. no nonsense, you know on my side even though you know, we had some issue we could deal with it but totally present totally dependable. and really as i said and you know under a photo of her on my blog just the best because that's the best is someone who is just gonna be there. yes, so you what they think it is. so helpful when people just tell you what they think that's right. that's right, you know once once she had me visit her class in athens, and she told me that the very best editors. allow you to be fearful and then encourage you to be courageous, but she said also the best editors are often like you might need to be afraid to do that. so, i wonder if she did any of that. in this in this amazing like opus of journals that we're
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about to talk about. well, there are times when you know, she was just wondering you know, how far how far i was going right, but she was also very respectful about my need to be free in my journals as i am in my existence. yes, so we had those conversations and she understood my spirit you did and i understood her spirit partly because of wrapped in rainbows the book that she did on zornale hurston, which is just, you know, incredible beautiful brave and trusting, you know, the the thing about zora in a way is because so many terrible things was said about her there's a point in which you just have to trust that one is a good person. yes this person not do all these heinous things that they claimed and she did not mean blah and and valerie was like that. you know, she just went for it. maybe we know each other because
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we have worked together and you know and emory got my papers partly because of valerie and rudolph byrd and beverly guy chef doll. so we were all you know, we were we're wonderfully a unit, you know, yes, so she understood she understood a lot and she went with with her feeling, you know that this was needs to be done and i'm gonna help do it. you know one of the things that i've heard you talk about over the years, um, and right about is is this desire that you wish for revolutionaries to get old right? i was trying to study up on fidel forbidden. you said that about fidel specifically but about other people too and and you know, i want to start this conversation. asking the question. i think i'm most afraid to ask which is like you are a revolutionary human to us. do you see yourself as a revolutionary human to yourself? of course, no question. no, no, no education. no, why wouldn't i be a
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revolutionary? i mean look at all the nightmare that we have to go through and if you wanted a revolutionary you'd be complacent. right, and i can't be complacent i never have been right right. i love that. i accept that in myself, and i'm grateful. enough i feel like these journals are among other things attempts at accepting that except accepting the freemeness and the revolutionary potential of all humanity, but particularly of the human creating the journal and you know yesterday when we were doing our tech i was a little sick. um, and and i talked to you about this the first the first alice walker phrase. i remember reading and i was probably 11 and maybe 10, um, and my mother obviously had everything you'd ever created and there was this piece called never offer your hearts to someone who eats hearts. and i just want to read the first hands of it because you
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talk about heart me in that in that in that poem and the first stands it is. never offer your heart to someone who eats hearts who finds heart me delicious, but not rare. who sucks the juices drop by drop and bloody chin grins like a god. that's the first stance. that's the person but as i as i reread the the journals, i just thought like this is an exercise in perpetually tending to one's heart me you revise your journals in the time when you were creating it there are points where you talk about writing something then you come back to your journals with the red team. did you feel like you attending to your heart me when you talking about always felt that was tending to my heart. this is the only heart i have yes and it and it is rare. yes, just as yours is rare just all hearts, you know are rare
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and we should be careful. who we extend them to? that's right. and and you know and an extension of that question makes me wonder how one protects their heart me when they are seen as a revolutionary human by millions. like how does one protect their heart me when so many people well intentioned loving despicable think they know you and now this book are gonna be sure they know you even more than they thought they did. how does one protect their heart mean? well well appearing to allow everyone into their heart appearing to allow everyone into their heart. it helps that i've lived this long. i mean most revolutionaries as you know, don't make it. i mean, we have a long list of people you know, i think right now la mumba because in mongo, you know, he was so or thomas sankara or che guevara, you know
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and all the people who you know who put their hearts out there, but at some point and but i'm not you know, they they knew what was possible. yes, and and i see it as you know, an act of love really to try to help, you know humanity evolved and at this point just survived. yes. so so that is comforting to know that you do your part, you know, who knows, you know, what is gonna happen people are leaving, you know every minute from all kinds of things. you you may be of course. but you've done your best and that is what is important. and you know one of the things that i love about you doing your best is that you never neglected, mississippi. okay, mississippi to fight you came to mississippi to wander. it feels like you came to mississippi to wonder. um, and you didn't just come to mississippi you talk about fair street you talk about the restaurants you talk about meeting the then loving your life.
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but you also give me the sense that you met organic revolutionaries from mississippi when when convenient history acts as if the revolutionary came to mississippi you talk about that for a little bit mrs. hudson and and and her sister. i forget her name right now, but all these women especially but men too of course, but they were right there. they were homegrown as is true all over the south often the people don't make it and that's why you never hear from them. you know, they are obliterated before they can do what what they need to do, but people like mrs. hudson she was she had been leading the demonstration. she'd been, you know doing all kinds of revolutionary work in mississippi plus writing her autobiography, which i helped her to do and then had to leave before she finished it but she finished it. at some point with the help of a friend of ours, maryland lowen and so, you know, i yes, you're
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right and i think often the people from the north. when they came there, they couldn't recognize the revolutionaries because they didn't they didn't know, you know, they didn't realize what they came out of. that's right. that's right. you you talk about it as a soul. i mean use the word soul like you know that you say he's one thing that you found you got off of that bus was so but you also talk about the poetry of the specific revolution in mississippi, and i wonder if you can talk a little bit more about like the the feeling of getting off of that bus having read so much about it having hurt so much about it. how did what you see in felt and touched and taste different than what you expected when you got there. well, i really nice my own family. i recognize well people but i recognize that the ones in mississippi were more awake. that they were more awake now. they had all the kindness of the people over in georgia, but they were also politically way more
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awake and it was because they had lost so many people to assassination. you know, they lost people, you know, medgar evers have been shot down in front of his children, you know, the whole air was of people who absolutely knew they were suffering and why they were suffering and that's a big gain, you know, sometimes in the south people, you know, they they didn't realize what had happened during reconstruction how they just you know and put back into account of surf dumb, you know, so that there was a lot of kind of bewilderment about just how how the world had gone against them. yeah, but in mississippi, you know, there's been so much trouble, you know so much pain people were really very awake and they were standing and they were standing incredible beauty. i mean it makes me right today thinking about you know hearing them singing as they're going up against, you know, enormous
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pressure and loving and helping each other. i mean real revolution is about helping people. this is about freeing people helping people feeding people teaching children, you know, it's it's so good and and they they had that no people, you know, they were all revolutionaries and young revolutionaries and middle school revolutionaries, and they're out there. you know, that's right. that's right and one of the things i mean for those of us who have attempted to read everything that you've written. i just want to say this is a different experience. i want to talk to the audience right now. like this. is this is this is this is not just behind the scenes. this is behind the scenes behind the craft behind the soul. and so when you you use these words a jewish law student working for naacp legal defense for you fell in love with a jewish law student working for naacp legal defense fund and then we all came back you were adamant. did you were coming back mary?
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you were just gonna talk about that decision because i think that you and mississippi. yeah because i want people to understand that i'm not all that in favor of marriage, but it really well. so right the revolutionary i wanted to be married and going back to the south with a white man was so anathema, you know to the culture at the time. i just you know, that was just something i had to do. i mean i wouldn't go back as a mistress. i wouldn't go back as you know, something people say well what is exactly well that period i was his wife right and it was illegal so deal with that well with that and it was illegal until 90 91 or 92. um, and so good. i mean that that is what i think people don't know really really sit with like about last year in high school, but miscegenation became legalism, mississippi. um, but i want to talk about solitude for a bit if we can.
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and one of the wonders to me in a book is that we see how you actually i'm gonna use this this is in my words love and need solitude yet. you also need and love. people right so you have to fight the urge sometimes to do what you want to do, which is to be alone with the world right with you're never alone if you really read your work you see you're never alone you you know you you're communing with everything that one like the the world and nature the grass like the gods the goddesses. but that appears to run counter to someone who also has made it abundantly clear that you are going to fight when you have to can we talk about those warring sort of positions of needing i isolation and solitude. but also needing to fight for yourself and for others, it's a
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struggle. it's been a struggle on the other hand just for instance. i understand the history of the native american people and my handsome answer ancestories native american but beyond that i understand and i understood that when indigenous people stood i had to be there especially in the early days because there weren't that many people aware, you know, and i have been reading i am reading a lot and i understood a lot so when somebody called me and said we got a raise money to you know, help the help this issue or we have to go and stand on a mountain somewhere and pray and i'm so happy really, i mean, it's not even hardest it was i'm happy, but at the same time by the time i got home all i wanted to do was just go in the deepest corner of my field. where nobody could see me? yes and be perfectly content to just be not even anywhere.
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yes, and and you know and one of the things that you do in this book, that was just i mean, you know people thought that word brave around with writing all the time and so i don't want to i don't want to lapse into that cliche, but i feel is brave to talk money as a black person. yeah, you know as black folk in this nation, i'm just gonna talk about other people too, but black folk, you know, and what especially black women, you know, my grandmother was 18 years old. she worked in white people's houses. she worked in the field. she was trying to get a plant job. but she hustled up enough money to buy 800 square foot shotgun house in forest, mississippi at 18. that was her house. she lived in a community of black women who bought their small houses and invited husbands into that house and then sometimes as you say put them shoes outside the door when they didn't act right you talk about the importance of the importance and also the pattern
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of you looking for different places to live and stay and be why was it so important not just to write it in your journals but to keep it in your journals when you share that with us, because i'm a sharecropper's daughter. yes when you are sharecropper's daughter our son or whatever. you have no house. they can put you out at 10 minutes notice you labor all year to bring in the cotton crop. and then they tell you well, you know, you still owe us money and you don't have any money so it's out the door you go and then you have to find another shot to live in so i understand perfectly. well why so i'm just wrote a review saying that you know, my my way of acquiring houses is like rich people buying houses. it's not. oh, yeah houses. wow, i never had one. so so i i understand my house hunger, you know, i've had a hunger. to have a home. yes not to not to be somewhere where people can say you have to get out.
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now. the other thing too is growing up in the south and traveling in the south. you know many people in this country can't even imagine what it's like to try to find a place to lay your head at night. no, that's right. you know, that's right. that is why i'm very adamant about in my journals keeping a record of how we can you know maneuver around financially in order that we have a place to live. is that simple really? yeah, and you cry, i mean you literally chronicle for those of you who haven't read the book yet, but i know you are after this conversation you chronicle that maneuvering you cry and some of it is actually talking with and and working with other people right? some of it is sometimes you got to do it by yourself. there's all things some heartbreak when it comes to the requirement of of property. um, but also wanted to think about and talk about this idea of happiness because you you ask this sentence in one of the journals you say is it possible
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to create out of happiness now? that that might not feel a sound, you know immensely profound to people who don't write but some of us get lost in this idea that we have to be broken down in order to be alone in order to write you say and i think at some point in your career in your life. you must have been asking yourself that question but you say is it possible to create out of happiness. can we talk about that a bit? absolutely, what would you like to know if i wonder okay the big question i want to i want to ask was like the color purple is so fast, and i wonder if parts of it what parts of it. we're actually written out of happiness most of it. yes. i may well and everything we think for my people. yes, but who wouldn't be happy to be able to offer this to us? yes. wouldn't be just ecstatic to be
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giving the gift as whole as you can make it knowing is good medicine knowing is good. you know, you know, it was good medicine. i knew it was good medicine before before anybody else told you, you know, absolutely absolutely i knew it was good medicine and i was so surprised them, you know, some people choked on it. mean it really happened. it really should not have they should have been able, you know, i wanted them. to take it, you know and and use it and and grow stronger and more. you know more open and more understanding and more loving that is and some medicine as you know, tastes weird and not delicious, but but it's still very good for you because of the truth this that's in it. you know with this root truth or word truth. and you know, i grew up with all black my mother her sisters and my grandmother and we used to watch well. they used to watch the tony
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brown journals tony, ironically the tony brown tony brown journal show. and so i was young person. i had to watch it with him and i remember my aunties arguing because somewhere tony brown had called the color purple the purple terra the purple rain and he caught it out of his name, right? you know, mississippi you don't you don't call people out in names, but you also don't call art artifacts. that means so much to use out of their name and then my grandmother forbid us from watching the tony brown journal. yeah after that conversation and you know what? i'm sure you've talked about this and if we don't want to talk about this, that's fine, but did it hurt at all when people to have folk like turning tony brown ishmael reading some other people not. except the wonder of that medicine of course, of course it did it hurt a lot. but, you know, i discovered something. i'm quite sturdy. oh, i'm quite sturdy. i have ancestors who sturdy you
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know, my mama was dirty. oh that it was too when he was a young man who's 30, you know? and i knew that it was good medicine. i mean i never doubted it for a minute. and i was sorry that they didn't know how to read it right and how to accept what i was offering. that was the tragedy for me to me not for me and then as you know, i as you know, the the storm all over everywhere. i just found it another publishing company and i saw other people to publish and and went to the country and lived with the trees who never criticized me and had a wonderful time. love it. and and while you were doing that and before you were doing that, um, you and drew enjoyed and created something called the sisterhood and and i was really interested in the dynamics that you feel comfortable sharing about the sisterhood given all of the conversation that a lot of black creators have about
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scarcity models, right? um, people call it crabs in a bucket and whatnot, but it feels in some way like that might have been created. not reactionarily to push that off but created to actually like see what people see a scarcity as abundance. can we talk about the sisterhood and whether or not that was the root of it? well the root of it was non-competition. yeah that and an unjust society and you're kind of quote on the bottom. the way to rise is not by pulling each other down you're not to compete and you're not to think of yourself as in competition and especially because whoever is pulling the strings is usually in some form of control, you know, all of you. so so one of two might rise but basically, you know, they're controlled as well. right? so once you understand that and then and then also that the the puppeteer gets to pitch you against each other. yes that they really, you know, nasty things, you know covertly
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about this one and that not quite right and blah but if you already have among yourselves agreement that all of that will just roll right off your back that you you just have it then it creates a whole different way of living, you know with your your art your life. and you know when when valerie talked to me about you being a revolutionary human, um i see that so much in the journals in the way you allow us to see your humanity as it relates to money right like sometimes, you know, you can be the most revolutionary human in the world. and if you're a young person who's been fair to scarcity model. and somebody over there who people think rights just like you or looks like you is getting something you might have a feeling for a second of i don't know if it's jealousy, but just wondering if anybody's gonna make space for you. you keep that in the journals to share with us can talk about that decision to write it but
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also to share it. well, yes, i mean, i think you may be referring to the when i was trying to sell my books on the street and getting nowhere and then tony was get tony morrison was getting three hundred thousand dollars, you know, there's a moment when you have to own what that feels like and that's why i left it in there so that people can see that your human being. i mean it hurts when you have so little and somebody else seems to have so much now. what makes the difference is that before that? tony and i and june and into the sake shanghai and other women had formed this circle. yeah where we decided that no matter what happened. we would always be true to each other. oh goodness. that's what revolution is. it is really putting it all out there understanding how it works but getting together, you know beforehand in the midst. and deciding that you would not be played in this way, you know so that you will continue to see each other's work as valuable
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and whole and necessary and that there's room on this planet for all of us. yes. yeah, so, you know. you know and one of the things that i did not expect to feel. so concretely. in a gathering of blossoms was how every decision one makes about the creation and crafting of a book. is important it is equally important on the other side of life. what one does with those books and those papers. so you deciding you could put these papers anywhere on earth, right? you could have them anywhere on earth you decided that they were going to be at emory in georgia, but particularly in the south. can we talk about why the south and not new york or not somewhere in california or anywhere else or paris or anything like that? i'm a southerner. yes accent come in there.
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i'm sorry. i'm a sadhana and and i you know, i i claim i i can't really seem to live there because it just hurts too much, but i when i think of my south you know the pine trees alone would make me want to be there. i mean the you know, the the feel of the earth and the you know, the memories of having watermelon patches. and seeing my father walking along the dirt road, you know, it's all in my heart. and i feel that i know who is down there. i mean, you know, oh the people of color especially who are down there. i know those people i know they're good people. yeah, and i want to be accessible. i want to be that when they need me i they don't have to go any farther than atlanta. yes. yes, i love it. i love it.
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um and journal journaling right like this. is this is this is this is where i feel like the book. pushes those of us who and for whatever reason given ourselves to life a reading and writing. um, i really wondered how much journaling has taken place since you turned in the last copy of the last draft of the book. is this still a daily occurrence for you? yes, pretty much. i mean not as much as before, but but you see i i when they bought those journals and all the other papers, i literally stopped almost in the middle of a sentence and they swooped. you know, so not only is there the the ending of the amount of journals that i sent them but but there's a whole other stat. yes because there have been a lot of days and weeks. i mean sometimes you know, i would go a long time without journaling. but it is a way to keep your
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spirit healthy because you you begin to understand. deeply deeply who you are yes, no evasion. who is this? why do i feel this way? and what did i what was i like, you know five months ago? well what happened three months ago? yeah. it's very good and especially when you cannot trust always, oh you you may not be able to find you know therapy. you may not be right someone tell you you can you can learn to help yourself by paying attention. yeah, and and and paying attention often that you find. the cracks right or the contradictions in ones younger self. um and one of the things that i just found i mean, you know, so wonderful and also just we talk about jealous like i was so jealous of the way you wrote about desire. you know me like i mean and i and it's weird right like i've
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read everything you you've ever created. i think it's shown and shown people. but you're doing it a little different here. you know, you're when you're talking about different partners and talking about, you know, oh my goodness when you describe you describe this one. there's one brother. who was you know, you know, he was a a baby as a lover and he would go to sleep and he would hold on to you know, the breast like a child. i mean it was just i mean the fact that you were trying to sell that like you needed to write that down for you can talk. well, yeah me but i don't know. i can't remember that exactly, but but you know sexuality is important and they open about it. it's wonderful and and i was just thinking about today how you know people you know, they say -- which is is okay, but think of what they used to say, they would call it coming right and and there's something so
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much more. i don't know but not pleasant. but but just just better about that worry coming because it it has it's like angels, you know, it's like communities like, you know life is like love, right? whereas -- just seems kind of brief, you know. it's just always weird to me that people like, you know a nation that is so like the just actually does not believe. in life to become scientific when talking about that right like that, which brings us whatever it brings right? so i definitely i definitely feel that i mean there there's i mean there are a lot of reasons to read this book, but but the way you write about desire and pleasure and partners and you know, partners who who satisfied you intellectually partners who satisfied you another ways and the way you write about yourself and your you know your desire to discover.
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oh unexpectedly lush good good parts that that we would let me put in that's what i was about those, but that's my next question. let me close. i wanted to value make you cut a little bit of that out. well, it had to be cut out and i i think she was wise okay, i feel you, but it's just that part of life is completely natural. you know, it doesn't have to be tricked out in some weird way, you know, you know, it's just it's just a part of existence. and and you know sometimes i mean i find myself i found i found myself after reading this book twice wanting to pit journaling up against social media, right? that's me. you didn't do you did not do that and and i found myself. asking myself, you know, like what would happen tsa if instead of writing these sort of very intimate things to people with intention to get in a lot of likes and retweets and --. you actually still just wrote to
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yourself to find out what you actually feel before sharing it. oh and and so without you don't demean social media or gadgetry necessarily, but you also really do because you have a blog that you keep but you also talk to us significantly about the importance and show us about the importance of writing long hand so much so that you would indigest yourself riding along you wrote your novels long. okay, some of them some of them can we talk about like the difference for you and journaling now verse versus when you do blog writing. is that is that still journaling when you put it on your blog or is that different? no, i think in a way that kind of journaling. i really reached, you know somewhere house actually so the blog is quite different. i mean it still gives me the opportunity opportunity to regularly engage. you know my thoughts and my feelings and to share them
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right, but it's different and i i can feel that it's different in a way. the journals are were about freeing myself, you know watching myself develop encouraging growth, you know looking at really hard choices in my life that i had to make and to try to understand why i was making them. where was i going? yes, and and as i you know, if we if we had the other part of the journal like from 2002 to i don't know to 15 or something like that, we would see you know, we would see other relationships for instance. you know, i mean, my life didn't end in my companionable life didn't end and partnerships didn't end 2000 right goodness. that's really beautiful thing that you see you see that life goes on. yes, it continues. you don't have to be, you know, stuck forever moaning and groaning about something that you feel like. oh god. this didn't work blah blah.
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it probably worked. okay for what it was. yes, and and then there there is as we say in mexico el futuro. i mean there is the future and and there is life, you know this this right there, you know, and and comes to you. and i don't have a single complaint about that. i mean i feel like life. has sent me, you know, everyone that i have needed up to this point to explore this world with right and when you say life goes on i think it's important for those people who might not be super familiar with your work to book to understand that you literally mean life goes on. there is no. yeah, right. it was that free you up to do if you believe that there is no end. there is no end to this what we are experiencing another there's no end. i mean there might be an end. there is an end of us as humans. yeah, and probably not a bad thing but in in the in this realm of the universe and the earth in particular, which i
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adore how can there be in have you ever looked at the grass? where do you think it comes from? have you ever looked at the trees where they come from? will they come from things that have died? yes, and then they you know, they're, you know died in the sense that they are not what they were but nothing nothing really dies. i mean you just transform and and i i feel that beautifully i mean i you know, i look at things and i think well, you know another lifetime i'll be that you know, i'll be that wonderful whatever right and i'm telling you it is just you know, maybe it's not for everyone. i'm sure but for me, i am happy with it. i love it and you know and i went to school in mississippi until 1995. i got kicked out of college and luckily got into a school up in oberlin because calvin herton worked some magic and got me in oberlin and my first semester there. i read this book called to be real by rebecca walker and it
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was my third wave feminism. i never i i read a lot about i was a woman studies major my previous. calendar read a book in in gathering blossoms you take us into your relationships with everyone whatever a lot of people including rebecca, um your daughter who to me wrote the most incredible anthology that i've read to this day still to be real if i haven't read it. you really need to check it out. it's incredible book, and i think it's still stands up. but can you what was there any apprehension in opening up? i'm asking this for my mother. she asked me to ask you this. was there any apprehension it in opening up? that part of your your life. the part that deals with your your very much alive writerly utterly creative daughter. yes. i i was very glad to be able to share it with her. i mean, i i you know, my feeling
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is that this is my life. yes, and i write from my life and if you're in my life, you're likely to be in my writing and she has actually read this, you know in galleys long time ago. and we were very good. you know, i mean, she just also published a book on money and women and money which is fabulous and i think yeah, that's the capacity to really transform, you know our relationship to money and having money and what you do with money and i think that partly she learned some of this from my watching me when we was just the two of us and very little money and every single month. i was there trying to figure out how i could do everything we needed from the small amount of money that we had coming in. yeah, so she's very aware of this book, you know, she's read it many times she seems line with it. and again, i see it as medicine for people.
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you know, we're not the only people who have struggles mothers and that's right brothers and daughters. we're not i mean, this is a territory that is full of all kinds of sufferers. yes. mm-hmm. yes, and you know, we we're lucky enough to have some high school students in the audience. um, and i have other questions, but i want to make sure we get a few of their questions in um, too before we continue and and of them is okay, this this person is asking the question that i wanted to ask what i'm too afraid but this high school student says what was your thought process behind creating suge avery's character and what did her relationship with celi quote unquote symbolize. this is from a young reader in texas. well, it symbolizes the freedom to actually fall in love with whoever you fall in love with. yeah and realize that there is no wrong choice, right, you know if you believe in love then you
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know that there is no wrong choice, you know, the person can be yeah short tall, you know black green and you fall in love because thank goodness. you still have a heart absolutely and so i also but here's the you know, it's a good question. what i realized was that looking around in that novel for some male person for her to be attracted to there was none there's no money that he would have been attracted. to because all of them were brought up, you know more or less. to behave in ways that would have destroyed her right and we want our you know, grandmothers and mothers and sisters to be whole and free and joyful, right? so should offered all of that that health, you know, that that's self-appreciation that see they had none of do you have favorite characters? that you've created. oh god. i don't i don't think of them
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that way. i don't know. i mean i there's so many i mean there are so many. yeah that i would have to really seriously think about it and what i'm what i'm doing often is creating characters to help us see a certain situation. absolutely, you know, and and i love the ones who break through now in in possessing the secret of joy the woman who is genitally mutilated, you know is very dear to my heart. i mean at the end of the book she is is killed by firing squad, you know, because she murders the woman who had mutilated her right? and so, you know, my heart is very much with her because i understood her i understood when she finally realize what had been stolen what had driven her. insane you get done something, you know, really we would say. oh, no, you know, you mustn't do that and you you know, and they were you know, killing her, but she's deeply in my heart because
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i if a hundred million women are genitally mutilated, you know, what do you do? right, you know so so that character i will always hold very close to me. look at that. i love that answer. another question from the high school students is it's again. these are young young readers that are asking questions that are very hard to answer. i think what is your plan for moving forward once you've you establish the hierarchy? within the world of literature um, i'm not really sure i understand that question because i don't think you're about hierarchies within the world of literature well, but coming from this culture i can understand why they would someone would ask that kind of question. okay, but i can answer it by saying i don't really believe in hierarchies and i and i feel that i'm more at peace in my garden right those and and not
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seeing anyone for like two weeks and playing with my dog. i mean, that's the hierarchy i don't establish the hierarchy of living here anywhere and it's this person might know actually, my books are sometimes really banned. yes, so so i don't see that. i have that kind of power nor would i want it? i'm very happy to be able to offer. you know to be able to offer medicine, basically, i see it as that right and i think what what this what the book does the gathering the blossoms what what it does is it? it shows you concocting the medicine, but it also shows us why you needed to create that particular medicine for you is you know to be like like my grandma might use always give give us this stuff called carnival and i didn't know it was called cod liver oil until like i was like 30 because you say carlo ball and i was like
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olive oil, but you know, it's the medicine it's the medicine but what i love about what you do miss walker is that you are not above meeting to take your own medicine like you create the medicine for you, which makes it without so much for so many folk and now with this book you've shown us particularly why you needed to create a particular medicine you did and the communities of friends and people who helped you created. is that a fair? that's very fair. yeah. yeah. i am very happy to have people who did understand what i was yeah. um one other question here is is a question about outlining do you do you what's your writing method? do you do you outline or quote unquote? do you just dive in? i meditate. to meditate a lot i walk a lot. i spend mornings really just you
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know just being you know, yes and hearing the song of what being is on this planet? yeah, and i hope you know that i will receive something that i can share with people, but if it doesn't come i just garden. right you just going. i love i love it. i love it. um, and then so so carol asks, how do you free yourself? to just create i wanted i wanted i want to encourage carroll to read the book. but how do you free yourself to quote and quote just create? well, that's you know, i always when i give talks i tell people that you have to think first about where you're going to live. and the rug in this goes back to being a sharecropper's daughter. some people think that it's all just magic but actually writers have to eat and if you have children, you definitely have to
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do more than that. you have to put them through school and buy shoes. so it really comes down to being you know, exercising your practical side. so you try to to find and you must find a way to live that gives you ample time to do the work that you're dreaming of doing. yes. and and you know, i i am one of these being from mississippi. um, we are i think very kind people um, but when you cross us or somebody we love we are very unkind we're going to get you and i'm not i'm not saying i'm not sure that's a good thing or not. but a lot of people when they found out i was doing this talk people who i don't know people who i know, you know tangentially. most people were just like here say, i can't believe you're talking to miss walker guys that i can't believe we're talking was walking and then we get all these other people who come in with these critiques of you that
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they want me to actually make of you when i do not agree with the critique, so, what i want to do is is not honor the critique, but ask you and i think meditation might be one of the reason we wanted to answer to this question. how do you deal with? so many people like adoring you holding you up on these corner quote pedestals that are very shaky. but also, what do you do now with these people who are sure that you are vow harmful scary anti-semitic. how do you deal with that and and and maintain safeness in your heart and your soul and and stay a revolutionary free black woman? well, it's a challenge because when people accuse you of things and you're you know, they are false. there's not a lot you can do. i mean you can what i have done is right back, you know and explain you know, how i see things.
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but people have to be willing to hear you and they're not willing to hear you and if they really are, you know intent on creating a caricature. what can you do? you know i can't i can't make them see my heart right, you know and make them see my behavior or or see you know that i in the case of the antisemitism part, which is painful, but the truth is that you know, i i've been to palestine and i grew up in georgia and it's a hundred times a thousand times worse in palestine than it ever was in georgia. i mean get to that or mississippi and that's hard to believe isn't it? oh, my mama said she went to palestine. she said the same thing. yes. well, that's there. there it is. so if i'm constantly putting, you know bombed out houses and and and assassinated children on my blog then i must be you know stopped so then what can people
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do but say, oh, she's anti-semitic, but that's ridiculous. i mean it really is and so oh, you know there's not a whole lot i can do about it. i mean no accusing me. being anti-semitic first because you know, i'd like david i can't help liking david. i he's got nerves and i might be curved. you know, do i agree with every theory he's ever with? no. but some of the things he's come up with i love yeah, and i always will and i'm not you know, i'm not gonna denounce him to please these people who basically rarely show their faces. that's right. you know, i mean the one person who had to quote courage to show his face was ellen dershowitz, you know, mr. i kept my shorts on. this is antisemitic. so, you know, i mean bernie, i love bernie, you know, i think he's he's the hope we had a hope here for some kind of political
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sanity. you know, it would be bernie sanders. so yeah. you know, i i've been booked in i've been scorn and i and i really rely on our music, you know, the spirituals the ones you know that they the say that you know, i've been viewed and i've been scorned i've been talked about sure as you were born, right, you know, and and there are other songs like that that we should revive because we need them and that's why our ancestors created them. yes, and i think that people who find themselves wandering through this book. will also see like the the kernels of faithfulness, and i'm not talking anything about religiosity right now, but there's a kernel of faithfulness in the work that you've done journaling and also creating and and and i wanted to sort of in the conversation with this question about faithfulness in
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in revolution and revolutionary community and organization versus like this notion nebulous idea of hope. like how do you understand those two like a sort of radical faith if that it exists versus what people might call a radical. hope for those the same things for you to you? well lucky for me. i have lived in an error when i have seen and sometimes met true revolutionaries. yes. i mean people who just knew the bullet was right around the corner and they were going to go around the corner. i mean, i when it's just incredible when you meet people who are willing to give everything they have for the dream of a common humanity that can wake up. yes, it changes you it really does and and in the early days we know when cuba was still i mean, i think they've suffered so much now that you know, everybody's kind of crazy, but you know in the early days going
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there for instance instance and seeing those people. you know just doing all they could do to learn how to read and write, you know, you know, basically live a decent life. it was it was transformative. it was i mean just to know that it's possible. yes, and you spent time with fidel like you you listen to feel of course adele's voice. oh honey. i mean he talked a whole lot and a lot of it was just incredibly interesting and and wonderful, and he actually unlike, you know some leaders. i mean you meet them and you know, they shake your hand and everything, but try to have a conversation with them, you know, and you realize that they know very little about anything he knew something about everything. it was remarkable his mind and his commitment and his humor. yeah. yes. yes. has your commitment? to the common good of earth and really human like earth like living livingness because one
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thing you say that i just love is life is alive and you also find life you when you're working in these journals you find life in places that a lot of us. might be too hardened or we won't accept that. there's life there you find life in the vulnerable you find life in the in the grass you find life in the note. you found like you find life and disagreement, but has that been steady like have you when can you i mean i read the book so i kind of know the answer this but but when do you feel like you were you were most? you were most at the possibility of not believing anymore that this can be better and you can do something to make it better. were you ever at a point where you like? i don't know if i can do anything to help this. well, it's kind of like that now. you know, yeah, i think when you look at the fact that the is basically collapsing. and look look at people actually still having war while the
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planet is glassy one, you know and and all this all these weapons that all these manufacturers have been making and now they're selling them. you know, they see the war in ukraine and russia as an opportunity to sell weapons, right? that's what's happening there place like in plain sight, right? so so, you know, you have to just laugh and and at this point because you know, you tried this and you tried that and you protested this and that and people, you know are so beaten down. that they seem to have lost a lot of their grip, you know on reality. yes. so at this point, i am really trusting the universe and this planet which i love so much. to just lead me. yes, i love that. um, i think that we are at time and i just want to say thank you. thank you for your love of us.
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thank you for your love of earth. um, thank you for your love of paragraph and sentences the the writer robert jones who wrote the profit told me to say thank you for giving him an opportunity to write the profits. but thank you. most of all i just want to say selfishly again for honoring and loving mississippi a place so many people neglect, um, and and and fail to see the interiority of and the fact that you found love loving revolutionaries, um and and creative possibilities in the black is poor staying in the nation means everything to me and it's part of why i'm here. so, i love you dealing i thank you so much for making time for us tonight. thank you so much. thank you. thanks to alice and tsa for joining us this evening and to you in the audience. i'm grateful to. intake pierce and the team at simon & schuster for making this event possible a limited quantity of gathering blossoms under fire with assigned
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bookplate are still available online at and will be shipped directly to you at home book sales benefit the museum and dma members receive a 10% discount on purchases. arts and letters live is supported by our annual season supporters the cake out aula endowment for the literary and performing arts and the mcgee foundation arts and letters live in fund at the dma major support is provided by the hersh foundation the fairmont hotel dallas is the exclusive hotel partner for the 2022 arts and letters live series and promotional support is provided by kera. thank you again for joining us and we hope to see yladies and e
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welcome david mammon.


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