Sisterhood Blog

Why Alice Walker is Wrong

By Sarah Seltzer

  • Print
  • Share Share
Wikicommons
Alice Walker

I love Alice Walker. I love her prose style, I love her ultra left-wing politics and the way they fuse with her artistic sensibility. I just finished her extremely complex time-spanning epic novel “The Temple of My Familiar” with my thoughts thoroughly provoked and her images in my head.

But I don’t love her decision to refuse to have her most famous book, “The Color Purple,” translated by an Israeli publisher in protest against the occupation and treatment of the Palestinians. She wrote a letter to Yediot books saying the following:

”I would so like knowing my books are read by the people of your country, especially by the young and by the brave Israeli activists (Jewish and Palestinian) for justice and peace I have had the joy of working beside,” she wrote in the letter, obtained by The Associated Press. “I am hopeful that one day, maybe soon, this may happen. But now is not the time.”

Without even getting into the substance of Walker’s critiques of Israel, here’s what I imagine. I imagine Walker must be frustrated. She has spoken out, protested, lobbied, and expressed her solidarity with Palestinians for decades — and very little change has come about. The situation has grown only more dire. Perhaps that’s why she felt she had to strike out this way, because nothing else seemed to work.

But to me, lashing out by denying ones art to the word is deeply problematic. If radical artists are suspicious of nation-states then their response shouldn’t be to shun states, but rather to expand the world of ideas and emotions contained in art so that it becomes border-less. I respect artists who don’t want to deal with corrupt governments or corporations but I can’t see the benefit in refusing to share a novel about the personal effects of oppression with a nation that, as the recent right-wing riots in Tel-Aviv show, has its own deeply pernicious racism to contend with.

Another writer I admire greatly, Margaret Atwood, took the opposite approach when she was asked by activists not to accept a prize in Israel.

“We don’t do cultural boycotts,” Atwood said in an interview before the ceremony at Tel Aviv University. “I would be throwing overboard the thousands of writers around the world who are in prison, censored, exiled and murdered for what they have published.”

In a follow-up interview with Bloomberg News, Atwood said “Artists don’t have armies. What they do is nuanced, by which I mean it is about human beings, not about propaganda positions.”


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Boycott, alice walker, color purple, hebrew

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.