Read The Way Forward Is With a Broken Heart Online

Authors: Alice Walker

Tags: #Adult, #Biography, #Philosophy, #Feminism

The Way Forward Is With a Broken Heart

“BEAUTIFUL, SENSITIVE WRITING …

Few writers handle the ambiguity of love in all its forms as well as Walker; few are as willing to ask the difficult questions and apply them to themselves.”


Rocky Mountain News

“One of the great strengths of [this book], a collection that flows seamlessly between autobiography and fiction, is the steadiness with which she makes real again the actual tensions and possibilites of her decade.… This is personal history at its most entwined with political history, and Walker restores magnitude to both.”


Elle

“Alice Walker’s best writing is like a balm: soothing, restorative, and earthy. Her latest book offers its fair share of such regenerative moments.… Walker’s lovely prose rarely falters. Her gifts are evident on almost every page.”


Us Weekly

“With muscular, sensuous prose and the shamanlike wisdom that unnerves some readers, Walker proves herself an incomparable original.”


Book

“Lyrical, compelling … Masterfully written … Walker is a deft storyteller, pacing her narratives with an ebb and flow that always manages to keep the reader engaged.”


Newark Star Ledger

“A strong, moving collection … Infusing her intimate tales with grace and humor, Walker probes hidden corners of the human experience, at once questioning and acknowledging sexual, racial, and cultural rifts.”


Publishers Weekly
(starred review)

A Ballantine Book
Published by The Random House Publishing Group

Copyright © 2000 by Alice Walker
Reader’s Guide copyright © 2001 by Alice Walker and
The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc.

All rights reserved.

Published in the United States by Ballantine Books, an imprint of
The Random House Publishing Group, a division
of Random House, Inc., New York, and simultaneously in
Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto.

“Kindred Spirits” was originally published in
Esquire
in August 1985; “Olive Oil” was originally published in
Ms
. in August 1985; “Cuddling” was originally published in
Essence
in July 1985.

Ballantine is a registered trademark and the Ballantine
colophon is a trademark of Random House, Inc.
Ballantine Reader’s Circle and colophon are
trademarks of Random House, Inc.

www.thereaderscircle.com

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 2001118412

eISBN: 978-0-307-81696-2

v3.1

 

I wrote the story myself. It’s all about a girl who
lost her reputation but never missed it
.


MAE WEST

Preface

Thirty years ago I met, loved and married a man from a part of the country foreign to me. He was of a culture, as well, that was foreign to me. As for his race, because of racial segregation or American apartheid, that too was foreign to me. Humor and affection joined us, more than anything. And a bone-deep, instinctive belief that we owed it to our ancestors and ourselves to live exactly the life we found on our paths. Or the life that found us. It was a magical marriage. Completely unexpected and unforeseen. Or even imagined. Or, in the part of the country we chose to live, legal. And yet, ten years after we met, we parted, in exhaustion and despair.

This book opens with a story, merging fact with fiction, of my version of our life together, when we lived in the racially volatile and violent Deep South state of Mississippi. It continues with some of the stories that grew out of an era marked by deep seachanges
and transitions. Stories that are mostly fiction, but with a definite thread of having come out of a singular life. It is dedicated to all those who love, and who seek the path instinctively of that which leads us to love, requires us to become intimate with what is foreign, and helps us to grow.

TO MY YOUNG HUSBAND

To My Young Husband

MEMOIR OF A MARRIAGE

Beloved,

A few days ago I went to see the little house on R. Street where we were so happy. Before traveling back to Mississippi I had not thought much about it. It seemed so far away, almost in another dimension. Whenever I did remember the house it was vibrant, filled with warmth and light, even though, as you know, a lot of my time there was served in rage, in anger, in hopelessness and despair. Days when the white white walls, cool against the brutal summer heat, were more bars than walls.

You do not talk to me now, a fate I could not have imagined twenty years ago. It is true we say the usual greetings, when we have to, over the phone: How are you? Have you heard from Our Child? But beyond that, really nothing. Nothing of the secrets, memories, good and bad, that we shared. Nothing of the laughter that used to creep up on us as we ate together late at
night at the kitchen table—perhaps after one of your poker games—and then wash over us in a cackling wave. You were always helpless before anything that struck you as funny, and I reveled in the ease with which, urging each other on, sometimes in our own voices, more often in a welter of black and white Southern and Brooklyn and Yiddish accents—which always felt as if our grandparents were joking with each other—we’d crumple over our plates laughing, as tears came to our eyes. After tallying up your winnings—you usually did win—and taking a shower—as I chatted with you through the glass—you’d crawl wearily into bed. We’d roll toward each other’s outstretched arms, still chuckling, and sleep the sleep of the deeply amused.

I went back with the woman I love now. She had never been South, never been to Mississippi, though her grandparents are buried in one of the towns you used to sue racists in. We took the Natchez Trace from Memphis, stopping several times at points of interest along the way. Halfway to Jackson we stopped at what appeared to be a large vacant house, with a dogtrot that intrigued us from the road. But when we walked inside two women were quietly quilting. One of them was bent over a large wooden frame that covered most of the floor, like the one my mother used to have; the other sat in a rocking chair stitching together one of the most beautiful crazy quilts I’ve ever seen. It reminded me of the quilt I made while we were married, the one made of scraps from my African dresses. The huge dresses, kaftans really, that I sewed myself and wore when I was pregnant with Our Child.

The house on R. Street looked so small I did not recognize it at first. It was nearly dark by the time we found it, and sitting in a curve as it does it always seemed to be seeking anonymity. The tree we planted when Our Child was born and which I expected
to tower over me, as Our Child now does, is not there; one reason I did not recognize the house. When I couldn’t decide whether the house I was staring at was the one we used to laugh so much in, I went next door and asked for the Belts. Mrs. Belt (Did I ever know her name and call her by it? Was it perhaps Mildred?) opened the door. She recognized me immediately. I told her I was looking for our house. She said: That’s it. She was surrounded by grandchildren. The little girl we knew, riding her tricycle about the yard, has made her a grandmother many times over. Her hair is pressed and waved, and is completely gray. She has aged. Though I know I have also, this shocks me. Mr. Belt soon comes to the door. He is graying as well, and has shaved his head. He is stocky and assertive. Self-satisfied. He insists on hugging me, which, because we’ve never hugged before, feels strange. He offers to walk me next door, and does.

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