Alice Walker was born in 1944 in rural Georgia, the youngest child of a sharecropper. When she was eight years old, while playing with two of her older brothers, a copper B.B. pellet hit her in the eye. The accident was traumatic, and Alice changed from being a brassy, self-confident child, interested in doing grown-up things, into a shy, solemn, and solitary girl.
Walker immersed herself in her studies, was consistently excellent in them, and after graduation won a scholarship to Spelman College, a small prestigious black women's school in Atlanta, Georgia. After two years, Walker left to attend Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York. There she majored in literature and studied extensively in Latin poetry and history.
Walker graduated from Sarah Lawrence in 1965, and three years later she published a collection of poetry, Once: Poems. Also in 1968, Walker married Mel Leventhal, a human rights lawyer, and they had a daughter, Rebecca, before they were divorced in the early 1970s. Her first novel, published in 1970, was The Third Life of Grange Copeland. During this time, Walker also held an editorial position at Ms. magazine; Gloria Steinem, editor-in-chief at Ms., was extremely encouraging and supportive of Walker's efforts, ideas, and writing. In 1976, Meridian, Walker's second novel, the story of a woman fighting for civil rights in the American South, was published.
In 1982, Walker received the Pulitzer Prize for Literature for her third novel, The Color Purple. Following this great achievement, she published a collection of essays, In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens, in 1983, and in 1984 released a collection of poems, Horses Make a Landscape Look More Beautiful. She has also published the Temple of My Familiar (1989) and Possessing the Secret of Joy (1992), along with children's books and non-fiction work.