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...on religion and power:

210k MPEG-3 audio file
290k WAV audio file
1.6Mb QuickTime movie

Walker's book 'By the Light of My Father's Smile'

Wisdom to be gained

Book shows lessons from ancient people

Web posted on: Monday, October 12, 1998 5:30:38 PM EDT

(CNN) -- Alice Walker, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning "The Color Purple," is back with a new novel. "By the Light of My Father's Smile" is a story of intense sexuality and spirituality. She spokes with Miles O'Brien on CNN's Sunday Morning.

O'BRIEN: Sexuality and spirituality. Our puritan forefathers are spinning in their graves. How are the two linked?

WALKER: Well, because they would naturally be linked. Sexuality is one of the ways that we become enlightened, actually, because it leads us to self-knowledge.

O'BRIEN: Give us the plot synopsis.

WALKER: It's a story about an anthropologist couple who go to Mexico to study the Mundo Indians and instead of being able to give them Christianity, the Mundo Indians teach the Christian missionaries how to be more natural and to be able to bless their children in their sexuality.

O'BRIEN: If "The Color Purple" is any indication, you typically don't paint too many men as being heroic figures. Is that the case in this book?

WALKER: Oh, there are heroic figures. In fact, the father is a very heroic figure who learns the most heroic lesson of all, which is to stand by his daughters.

O'BRIEN: What got you interested in this idea for a book?

WALKER: I think that at this time on the planet, we are so imperiled in so many ways, and especially sexually, that I wanted to enlist fathers as allies for their daughters, especially at puberty when the young women are about to go off into the world of being adult female women.

O'BRIEN: When you say we're imperiled sexually, what does that mean?

WALKER: It means that this is a time of great disease and death on the planet, and a lot of it is sexually transmitted. And a lot of young women and men are going out and having sexual encounters without knowing really, you know, what is out there for them.

O'BRIEN: Did you write this book hoping to reach them in some way?

WALKER: Oh, I think I will. I think the fathers who are usually so mad at me for one reason or another will wonder what I'm talking about now, and they will want to know. And I hope that they understand that I am standing with them as they stand with their daughters.

O'BRIEN: Now another theme which you deal with in your work are race relations. Do you address that in this book?

WALKER: Well, of course, because we live in a culture in which we are all racially co-existing if not mixed, and in my case, I do both. I'm mixed and I'm living in a culture in which it is easy to see that we must all figure out some way to save what is left of the United States and the continent that we're on, and also the planet.

O'BRIEN: Are you pessimistic about race relations, in general?

WALKER: I think it's not that important. I think it's more important, really, to find ancient and new ways to live on the planet so that we can all live. You know, one race will not be a survivor if the other one dies, and that's something that we should think about.

O'BRIEN: Ancient and new ways; explain that.

WALKER: Well, I think indigenous peoples have ways of living on the Earth that they've had forever. And they've been overrun by organized religion, which has had a lot of money and power.

And their views have not been heard and I think that we should try to imagine them. We should try to revive them, we should try to learn from some of the cultures that this world, this Western world, has destroyed. There's a lot of wisdom to be gained.

O'BRIEN: We always like to ask our authors what they're reading. What's on your list right now?

WALKER: Well, I'm actually reading a wonderful book by a West African whose name is Malidoma Patrice Some and his first book is called "Of Water and the Spirit," and I recommend it really highly because he's bringing a lot of indigenous African wisdom to the West for the first time, and it's very healthy for us.

O'BRIEN: And is that available in book stores for folks, if they're interested?

WALKER: Oh, I think so. I think it should be in all book stores and his new book is called, "The Healing Wisdom Of Africa," and it's something that I find very healing for myself and I think other people will too.

O'BRIEN: Can you tell us about your next project?

WALKER: You know I never talk about my next project. Basically I'm interested in going home now.

O'BRIEN: All right, enjoy the rest and the break. Alice Walker, pleasure to see you on CNN Sunday Morning.

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