10 Alice Walker Quotes That Amaze and Inspire

Powerful wisdom from the author of The Color Purple.

alice walker posed for a photo, circa 1979

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker has been inspiring readers with her stories, her passion, and her honesty for more than four decades. You probably know the iconic author best from her most famous novel, The Color Purple, but she's written many other novels and poetry books, all of which feature her strong writing and inimitable voice. In fact, regardless of whether you're reading her one of her books or listening to one of her interviews, Alice Walker's quotes always leave an impression: her words are striking, energizing and inspiring.

Read on for 10 of our favorite Alice Walker quotes, from both her published books and interviews.

Related: Inspirational Book Quotes in the Time of Coronavirus 

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  • "The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any."—Alice Walker

Perhaps the most famous Alice Walker quote, her words on power have been quoted in countless inspirational books

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  • "Part of what existence means to me is knowing the distance between what I am now and what I was then."—Alice Walker, In Search of Our Mother's Gardens

Published in 1983, In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens is a collection of Alice Walker's essays, reviews, statements, articles and speeches. Much of the writing expands on her "womanist" theory, in which Walker defines a "womanist" as a black feminist, or feminist of color.

Related: 11 Books for Women Looking to Take 2020 by Storm 

Alice walker quote from The Temple of My Familiar
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  • "Keep in mind always the present you are constructing. It should be the future you want."—Alice Walker, The Temple of My Familiar

The Temple of My Familiar is the 1989 sequel to The Color Purple, though it doesn't directly follow it. Instead, Celie and Shug subtly shadow the lives of dozens of characters, including Celie's granddaughter, who is living in modern-day San Francisco. The ambitious, multi-faceted novel weaves a "glorious and iridescent" tapestry of interrelated lives (Library Journal).

Related: Revisiting The Color Purple: A Discussion with Alice Walker 

alice walker quote from revolutionary petunias
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  • "Expect nothing. Live frugally on surprise."—Alice Walker, Revolutionary Petunias

A National Book Award finalist, Revolutionary Petunias and Other Poems are the love poems of an author caught up in a sometimes violent upheaval. These aren't your usual romantic love poems; rather, they're Walker's passionate and visceral response to having spent the previous decade deep in the civil rights movement.

Related: Alice Walker Poems Everyone Needs to Read  

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  • "Don't wait around for other people to be happy for you. Any happiness you get you've got to make for yourself." —Alice Walker

Finding peace and happiness isn't a simple task, though it is a bit easier once you realize that the only person who can make you happy is you.

Related: 10 Books on Happiness That'll Help You Lead a More Fulfilling Life 

alice walker quote from you can't keep a good woman down
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  • "I believe in moments, collective action to influence the future."—Alice Walker, You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down

Alice Walker's second collection of short stories is about strong women who face heart-wrenching degradation. Unlike her first short story book, however, these characters face their problems head on, and Walker provides some levity by infusing wit and the power of love in each tale.

Related: Short Story Collections That Belong on Every Novel Reader's Shelf 

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  • "Why any woman give a shit what people think is a mystery to me."—Alice Walker, The Color Purple

This Alice Walker quote is delivered by the character Shug Avery in The Color Purple. Celie is immediately fascinated by Shug, who refuses to be dominated by any one, and who has no trouble speaking her mind. 

Related: Gloria Steinem on The Color Purple 

Alice walker quote from Living by the Word
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  • "War will stop when we no longer praise it, or give it any attention at all."—Alice Walker, Living by the Word

This collection of Alice Walker's writings from 1973-1987 is "an uneasy mix of journal entries, short essays, travel notes, speeches and dream fragments" (Publisher's Weekly), all of which tackle issues such as the modern dilution of black folklore, controversy surrounding The Color Purple, nuclear escalation and homophobia.

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  • "There are ways that the spirit can be mended just as there are ways that the spirit can be broken."—Alice Walker, In Love and Trouble

Alice Walker's first collection of short stories, published in 1973, contains thirteen haunting tales about the lives of black women. Almost 50 years later, the works are still well-worth reading. "Walker dares to reveal truths about men and women, about blacks and whites, about God and love. . . . And we, like Alice Walker's marvelous characters, come away transformed by knowledge and love but most of all by wonder" (Essence).

alice walker quote from possessing the secret of joy
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  • "If you lie to yourself about your own pain, you will be killed by those who will claim you enjoyed it."—Alice Walker, from Possessing the Secret of Joy

The final book in The Color Purple Collection, Possessing the Secret of Joy follows the story of Tashi, a girl who was born in the Olinka tribe. Years later, Tashi is living in America and living as Evelyn Johnson—though she can't shake the abuse she's suffered throughout her life.

Related: 10 Books Like The Color Purple

Featured image: Alice Walker c. 1979, at a celebration she hosted after the publication of Zora Neale Hurston's I Love Myself When I Am Laughing, an anthology Walker had edited. Image courtesy of Alice Walker.