Meridian Background

Meridian Background

Alice Walker set to work on a new novel shortly after filing for divorce from her husband in 1976. In the three years since the publication of her short story collection In Love and Trouble, Walker had become a contributing editor at Ms. Magazine, had published her second poetry collection Revolutionary Petunias and Other Poems and took a teaching position at Wellesley College. She also began making the serious move toward leaving the South behind forever.

That novel would eventually be shared its title with the name of its heroine: Meridian. Meridian can rightly be viewed as Walker’s semi-autobiographical fictional representative in her tale of how a young black woman in the South responded to the rise of the Civil Rights Movement. At the center of that story is a woman who must confront a tough ethical choice: perpetuate the cycle of violence within the social structure in which she finds herself by responding to gender and class inequalities with violence in kind.

Meridian was criticized in some quarters for what was seen as a less than flattering portrait of the African-America male (a criticism which would also be leveled against Walker's Pulitzer Prize-winning The Color Purple). Nonetheless, the legacy of Meridian is one that views Walker’s novel as one of the seminal works of fiction on the subject of the African-American experience during the era of the Civil Rights Movement.

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