The personal and literary career of Alice Walker, born in Georgia in 1944, exemplifies the hopes and dreams which characterised the 1960s. The distinguishing voice of that decade, whether it emanated from emergent African nation states, the Civil Rights Movement in America, or the Women’s Movement internationally, had called for liberation. Aspiring young writers like Walker set about reclaiming their cultural heritage and identifying the literary tradition to which they belonged. Courses on black American writing tentatively appeared, and women teachers rediscovered the neglected works of their female antecedents. In an article for American Scholar in 1967, Walker summed up the identifiable gains made by her people as a result of the Civil Rights Movement as ‘knowledge and pride’, providing a ‘purpose for living’ in a future built upon a breaking of ‘the pattern of black servitude’. 1 Her optimism about black advancement had survived the painful confrontation with the violence of white racism, but was mitigated by her fear of black sexism, causing her to question whether the pattern of black servitude had been broken in equal measure for men and women. Walker’s published writing now spans a quarter of a century, and is an ongoing record of a highly personalised self-examination as a woman and artist who is also black. It began with some suicidal despair in Once, 2 her first published volume of poetry, and has culminated in a visionary hope for a New World in The Temple of my Familiar. 3 With the confidence arising from published success, Walker has spoken with increasing clarity on the issues of race and gender which preoccupied her own generation of black women writers just as intensely as they had earlier ones.