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Walker, Alice.

Best Short Stories by Negro Writers.


Annotated and Inscribed
(Walker, Alice). Hughes, Langston, ed. The Best Short Stories by Negro Writers. An Anthology from 1899 to the Present. Boston…: Little, Brown and Company, (1967).
8vo.; brown cloth; stamped in gilt and blind; white dust-jacket, printed in black, brown and orange; spine sunned; corners bumped. In a specially made cloth slipcase.
First edition; Walker's contribution, "To Hell With Dying," is the final story in this collection. A presentation copy, inscribed to her professor: for Jane Cooper/(whose teaniest smile would make any creation easy)/with love,/Alice/3-2-67. Cooper, a poet, taught Walker at Sarah Lawrence College from 1963 to 1966. With an annotation at the end of the story; she adds this sentence after the final printed sentence: "Memories, Spring, guitar, and the scent of yellow roses blowing just everywhere…" (p. 496) Signed and dated by Walker in the middle of the page. In the "Biographical Notes" section at the end of the book, Walker has also added an annotation to her biography; after the final sentence, noting that "[Walker] is now at work on a collection of short stories," Walker has added, by hand, "& a novel."  Walker was probably at work The Third Life of Grange Copeland, her first novel, published in 1970.
Walker tells the story of Mr. Sweet - "a diabetic and an alcoholic and a guitar player" - and succinctly introduces her character and his family to her readers:
Mr. Sweet had been ambitious as a boy, wanted to be a doctor or lawyer or sailor, only to find that black men fare better if they are not. Since he could be none of those things he turned to fishing as his only earnest career and playing the guitar as his only claim to doing anything extraordinarily well. His son, the only one that he and his wife, Miss Mary, had, was shiftless as the day is long and spent money as if he were trying to see the bottom of the mint, which Mr. Sweet would tell him was the clean brown palm of his hand. Miss Mary loved her 'baby,' however, and worked hard to get him the 'l'il necessaries' of life, which turned out mostly to be women. (pp. 490-491)
Her narrator concludes by confessing that Mr. Sweet had been her first love.
In his editor's note, Hughes also describes Walker as one of the "youngest contemporary writers of creative fiction." He continues his praise of Walker in his Introduction; regarding grants for writers and who they should be dispersed to, he asks, "Or if it must be a young talent as first choice for a subsidy, then why not the astounding Miss Alice Walker? Neither you nor I have ever read a story like 'To Hell with Dying' before. At least, I do not think you have" (p. xii).  
This collection has been praised as "the most complete and authoritative collection of its kind in the English language. These stories were written by outstanding, well-known authors like James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, Richard Wright and John Williams, and by equally talented though relatively unknown writers such as Alice Walker, Ted Poston, Conrad Kent Rivers, and Mike Thelwell" (dust-jacket). Other women writers included in this collection include Arna Bontemps, with "A Summer Tragedy," Zora Neale Hurston, with "The Gilded Six-Bits," Dorothy West, with "The Richer, The Poorer," Katherine Dunham, with "Afternoon into Night," and Gwendolyn Brooks, with "We're the Only Colored People Here."
Hughes oversaw several anthologies of African American writing; these books are: An African Treasury, Poems From Black Africa, The New Negro Poets: U.S.A., The Book of Negro Humor, The Book of Negro Folklore and The Poetry of the Negro (these final two collections were published in conjunction with Arna Bontemps).
Walker's writing career has been prolific and diverse; she published her first book of poems - titled Once: Poems - in 1968; followed by her first novel, The Third Life of Grange Copeland, in 1970. Her most celebrated and well-known book is The Color Purple (1983), for which she won the Pulitzer Prize and the American Book Award; it was subsequently made into a movie and a Broadway play. Altogether, she has published nine books of poetry, including: Revolutionary Petunias and other Poems (1973), Horses Make a Good Landscape Look More Beautiful (1984) and A Poem Traveled Down My Arm: Poem and Drawings (2002); twelve novels, including: Meridian (1976), You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down (1981), The Temple of My Familiar (1989) and Possessing the Secret of Joy (1994). Six nonfiction books, including Warrior Marks: Female Genital Mutilation and the Sexual Blinding of Women (with Pratibha Parmar, 1993) and Anything We Love Can be Saved: A Writer's Activism (1997); and three books for children, including: Langston Hughes, American Poet (2002). Walker has also contributed to a number of anthologies and periodicals.
Walker worked as a voter registration worker in Georgia; at a Head Start program in Mississippi; and in a welfare department in New York City. Her academic appointments include lectureships or professorships at Wellesley College, UMASS-Boston, Brandeis University, Jackson State College and Tougaloo College; she is also a member of the board of trustees at Sarah Lawrence.
Her numerous awards include the O.Henry Award for "Kindred Spirits" (1986); the Langston Hughes Award (1989); the Freedom to Write Award, PEN West (1990); the California Governor's Arts Award (1994); and the Literary Ambassador Award of the Oklahoma Center for Poets and Writers (1998).
Walker, born in 1944, was the eighth child to parents who worked as sharecroppers on a tenant farm in Georgia. She attended Spelman College from 1961 to 1963, and then transferred to Sarah Lawrence College. Soon after graduation, she married Mel Leventhal, a Jewish civil rights lawyer; they moved together to Mississippi; Walker taught there and became socially active. The couple divorced in 1976, they had one daughter, Rebecca.

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