The essay “In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens” by contemporary American novelist Alice Walker is one that, like a flashbulb, burns an afterimage in my mind. It is an essay primarily written to inform the reader about the history of African American women in America and how their vibrant, creative spirit managed to survive in a dismal world filled with many oppressive hardships. This piece can be read, understood, and manage to conjure up many emotions within the hearts and minds of just about any audience that reads it. However, Walker targets African American women in today’s society in an effort to make them understand their heritage and appreciate what their mothers and grandmothers endured to preserve it.
Throughout the essay, Walker paints many disturbing pictures to get the point across to the reader that African American women in the past were unbelievably strong individuals. They were so oppressed in life that even as artistically talented as they were, they were not allowed to express that talent and allow their creative spark to flourish. In the opening paragraph, Walker discusses black women who “stumbled blindly through their lives: creatures so abused and mutilated in body, so dimmed and confused by pain, that they considered themselves unworthy even of hope” (p 694). Walker explains the labeling of these women as “Saints.” “Instead of being perceived as whole persons, their bodies became shrines: what was thought to be their minds became temples suitable for worship”(p 695). In other words, these “Saintly” women were geniuses with no outlet for their creative spirit; “they were Creators, who lived lives of spiritual waste, because they were so rich in spirituality- which is the basis of Art- that the strain of enduring their unused and unwanted talent drove them insane” (p 695). This passage is where the first evidence that Walker is targeting black women comes in. She asks, “Who were these Saints?” The next line she answers her own question: “Some of them, without a doubt, were our mothers and grandmothers” (p 695). She is targeting black women here when she uses the word “our.” She is obviously not talking about my grandmother. I am a white female; my grandmother endured no such hardships in the course of her life. There are several other examples where it is obvious that Walker ...
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...several different examples and by using different tones throughout the essay, she thoroughly explains what her ancestors had to endure. Although they faced many hardships, they were still able to find a way for their creative spirit to flourish. Whether these women were able to express this artistic spirit or not, each and every African American woman had a talent, and did everything in their power to keep it alive. As a white female, I found this essay extremely inspiring. I can only imagine the impact it would have on an African American woman today. Walker does an excellent job informing her targeted audience about the incredible strength of their ancestral spirit, that creative spirit held by their mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers. She is telling the black women in today’s society not to forget where they come from. She wants them to do their best to understand their heritage and culture, and to appreciate it for what it is, and what the women in their family endured to preserve it; for in her family, Alice Walker’s mother preserved it through her garden.
Walker, Alice. In Search of Our Mother's Gardens. New York: Harcourt Brace Javanovich, 1983.
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