“Though War has a mind of its own War Never Knows Who It is Going To Hit.”
From Why War Is Never A Good Idea
Every seat in the Santa Monica Main Library’s auditorium was taken. Mothers and some fathers held children in their laps. People clutched copies of books they had brought to be signed. They had come to see and hear Alice Walker.
Many in the audience were yearning to hear her talk about The Color Purple, her Pulitzer-Prize winning novel that has become so much a part of American culture. But Walker was interested first in reading from, and talking about, her children’s books: There is a Flower At The Tip Of My Nose And It’s Smelling Me, a book about nature, and Why War Is Never A Good Idea, a title that needs no explanation.
She began by saying, “I’m happy to be in Santa Monica again. I was trying to remember what it was that I liked when I had been here before – and I looked out the window and saw the Big Blue Bus! I want to ride it!”
Then she turned to reading excerpts from each book, accompanied by PowerPoint blow-ups of the illustrations, which were done by Italian artist Stefano Vitale.
Walker said she originally had another illustrator in mind, but her editor introduced her to Vitale and the collaboration was wonderful.
“How did you come to write these two books?” someone in the audience wondered.
“I didn’t choose to,” Walker replied. “I was chosen.”
She explained that she had thought she would not write any more books, “But a spirit sat me down and said, ‘We’ll let you know.’ ”
The text of Why War Is Never A Good Idea is, in fact, a poem. Walker has published many volumes of poetry. As with her fiction and non-fiction, her writing is up-front in its opinions.
When asked if she was concerned about reaction to the war book’s anti-war viewpoint, she replied: “I don’t care if people think [the work] is partisan. My responsibility is to think about the children, the planet, the water, the trees, the animals –– that’s my realm.”
She emphasized that we have to remember that “there are no ‘other’ people on earth -– we are the ones.
“We’ve been badly taught. We’ve been used so that people can make a profit from our misery.”
Walker also spoke to the issue of education: “It’s poor [in the U.S.].” She deplored the way children are dealt too many distractions, and that technology is being sold but not taught to the consumers. In her travels, she observed that Asian countries are ahead of the U.S. in their concern for education.
In between these questions and answers, Walker received accolades from people about the “much-discussed book,” i.e., The Color Purple. People spoke of how it had inspired them to believe in the power of love and how it had inspired at least one audience member to start writing herself. But Walker shared one interesting secret with the audience.
“I come from a very large family,” she said. “And very few of them have read my books.”
She said that this used to hurt her feelings but now it “amuses” her instead. Still, she had hoped that her own sister would understand the “theology” of The Color Purple, its message of faith through love.
“Is it from fear?” someone asked her. “Because you’re writing about people based on your family?”
“Fear is part of it,” replied Walker. “But if they love me as they claim to, they should have more courage!”