Alice Walker’s ‘Taking the Arrow Out of the Heart’ a glimmer of hope

Monday, October 29, 2018 - 10:57am

Tessa Rose

Tessa Rose Buy this photo
Book Review

“Taking the Arrow Out of the Heart” is the first bilingual poetry book of Alice Walker’s 35 published and prolific works. The first female African American winner of a Pulitzer Prize in fiction, Walker’s writing shows all the marks of a revered author, poet and activist; each poem is eloquent, honest and touching. Many admirers recognize Walker for her work in “The Color Purple,” a novel tracing the life of Celie, an African American girl who is impregnated by her stepfather. In Taking the Arrow Out of the Heart,” Walker once more explores themes of feminism and humanity, while writing with a sense of urgency for action and constructive contemplation. If Mother Earth could form audible words, they would be the words of Walker in Taking the Arrow Out of the Heart.

Walker chooses to opt out of polarized political circles, but makes it clear she is on the side of the oppressed. Through poetry, Walker replaces bereavement for the past with valuable fragments of hope for the future, but she makes clear that a better humanity is only feasible through immediate action against past wrongdoings. Her words lead you towards the light, but doing that involves a sense of humanity, sorrow and action against the darker shades that infiltrate the world at large. With poems for the children of Palestine, Iraqi women, the mothers of police brutality victims and many more oppressed groups, Walker’s words of sorrow and redemption account for all forms of oppression against the intersections of marginalized people globally. She further memorializes artists, activists and other brave fighters of oppression and injustice, like Martin Luther King Jr.

Walker recognizes the deprivation of all forms of life beyond humans with lines like, “Anybody who assassinates rivers, oceans, and the air, is not from here. / You can sleep on if you like. But this is the easiest way to tell who is not Earthling.” Alice Walker is not blindly optimistic, but rather pragmatic and compassionate. She asks if dreams for the future are at the climax of possibility with the following questions: “Is it the peaceful nation in which every child is wanted and adored; where every woman has a voice? Where every man’s dignity is rooted in nonviolence?”  

Walker further interrogates power structures that employ privileges to favor some while leaving others silenced and unheard. She rightly confirms that people who have the privilege to ignore the disparities faced by so many are basking in ignorant grandeur and not stepping up to the plate of dignity for humankind.

Within the 70 poems in “Taking the Arrow Out of the Heart,” lines like “Blackness is not where whiteness wanders off to die: but that it is like the dark matter between stars and galaxies in the Universe that ultimately holds us together” really stick out. These lines are from the poem “Here It Is,” commemorating Jesse Williams’s (you may also recognize him as Dr. Avery from the TV series, “Grey’s Anatomy”) speech after winning the Humanitarian Award at the 2016 BET Awards for his work with the Black Lives Matter movement. Walker, like Williams, refuses to define Blackness as the absence of whiteness, and further speaks to eliminate “fear of blackness in white culture.”

“Taking the Arrow Out of the Heart” is a four leaf clover for all activists and fighters against injustice needing a glimmer of hope. Alice Walker writes with patience and understanding, but remains demanding while posing reformative thoughts. Kind but necessary; grateful but urgent. Walker doesnt just capture the readers attention — she pulls you soothingly against her chest and gets right to the heart of the matter.

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“Taking the Arrow Out of the Heart”

Alice Walker

Atria Books

Oct. 2, 2018