From Black  Voices — It’s hard following the footsteps of your mother, especially if that woman is Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker.

For 40 year-old author, Rebecca Walker, having a famous mother has been anything but easy and she’s opening up about just how her difficult life was.

“I very nearly missed out on becoming a mother – thanks to being brought up by a rabid feminist who thought motherhood was about the worst thing that could happen to a woman,” she revealed to British newspaper Daily Mail.

“My mom taught me that children enslave women,” she continued. “I grew up believing that children are millstones around your neck, and the idea that motherhood can make you blissfully happy is a complete fairytale.”

These days, the Yale graduate (born Rebecca Leventhal) is the proud mother of a three and a half year-old son named Tenzin with her partner, Glen. Yet, she holds “The Color Purple” novelist responsible for much of her hardships growing up and is working hard at being a totally different type of mother.

“Ironically, my mother regards herself as a hugely maternal woman. Believing that women are suppressed, she has campaigned for their rights around the world,” she noted.

“But, while she has taken care of daughters all over the world and is hugely revered for her public work and service, my childhood tells a very different story. I came very low down in her priorities – after work, political integrity, self-fulfillment, friendships, spiritual life, fame and travel.”

Following in her mother’s footsteps, the biracial Mississippi native devoted a great deal of her life dedicated to upholding feminist principles.

She co-founded a non-profit to encourage activism in young women called Third Wave Foundation and was recognized for her work signing up tens of thousands of young female voters by The National Association of University Women, the National Organization for Women and the League of Women Voters, respectively.

After that, she was a contributing editor to several notable publications including Essence, Ms., Glamour, Interview, Vibe and Mademoiselle to name a few. Time magazine even chose her as one of its 50 Future Leaders of America.

For her mother, aside from writing the seminal novel which spawned a classic film and hit Broadways musical of the same name, the Georgia native has published poetry, novels and non-fiction works, in addition to being honored with The Radcliffe Institute Fellowship, the Merrill Fellowship, and a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Their personal lives mirror each other too; For years Rebecca dated alternative-rock-soul singer Meshell Ndegeocello, while her 66 year-old mother was rumored to be romantically involved wtih singer-songwriter Tracy Chapman.

Still, the daughter believes her mother was selfish taking off in her teenager years for a two month jaunt to Greece and leaving her with relatives and earlier in her childhood forbidding her from playing with dolls.

“A good mother is attentive, sets boundaries and makes the world safe for her child. But my mother did none of those things.”

“I was 16 when I found a now-famous poem she wrote comparing me to various calamities that struck and impeded the lives of other women writers,” Walker noted.

According to Rebecca, Alice spoke of how “Virginia Woolf was mentally ill and the Brontes died prematurely,” then calling her a “delightful distraction, but a calamity nevertheless.” It was something that she said was “a huge shock and very upsetting.”

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  • It is really disturbing to see so many comments attacking Rebecca Walker. The fact is that none of us knows what it was like growing up with her mother Alice Walker. Since we did not experience what the young woman did (whether it was real to her or imagined), who are we to judge Rebecca’s feelings?

    I admire Alice Walker for her brilliant mind and incredible talent. However, she seems to have forgotten that Rebecca did not ask to come into this world. Alice made the choice to marry and have her child (I don’t know where someone else got the idea that she was pressured into doing so). Since she made the choice to have a child, a beautiful little daughter, she was obligated to be there for her. No matter how many attractions life has to offer, once we decide to have a child that little person cannot be put on the back burner until she becomes an adult. It might be great trying to save the whole world, but if you lose those who are closest to you, what have you gained? Apparently, Alice Walker had a good relationship with her own mother, whom she speaks very highly of in her works, so she must have learned something about mothering. None of us who makes this choice is fully prepared for it, but we just have to put our hands to the plow and learn by doing. Parenthood is a 24/7/365 JOB! Yes, it is sometimes idealized but, at the same time, it is not the disaster that radical feminists make it out to be. The grand irony is that Alice Walker writes so much about dysfunctional families but fails to look into her own mirror.

  • bigmoemiami

    Who knows what is really going on with these two, but it seems that Rebecca’s complaints about her mother are a plaintive squeal for attention and not much more than bratty behavior. What do you call a woman who is half black and half JAP? A royal pain in the tukhes.

  • I believe it

  • Celia

    This is 2014. Hopefully, Rebecca and her son have established SOME type of relationship with Alice.
    My impression is that Rebecca and Alice BOTH lack in some degree. (We cannot pick our relatives.)

  • Anon

    I’m on the flip side of this. My daughter, only child, is alienated from me.
    Believe me, it hurts. The hardest thing that has ever happened to me. Thank God that I have a modicum of maturity (in my 70’s) so that I don’t completely go to pieces and end up a puddle on the floor.

    Perfect mother? You bet I wasn’t. Yelled. Said some awful things. I deeply regret that I did not have more maturity at the time. Was my daughter hurt? Yes.

    And, her ideas about what happened when she was seven and ideation was just forming and pretty unstable, made a rich turf for misunderstanding on her part. I have gleaned through everything carefully for my own fault and it is still difficult for me to grok how this woman who I supported through college and bad love affairs, coached for her European travels, took to my heart when her father rejected her at his remarriage, gave a place to live and took her oldest baby son on walks every morning so the parents could sleep in, could suddenly have seemed to turn on me. She tells me I am dead to her.

    So, no, I don’t entirely believe Rebecca. Of course she has reason. She wouldn’t feel the way she does if she didn’t. The question is: is it enough for her to vilify her mother publicly. Why is she doing that? Trying to get her own back; to make her mother suffer? A recent PBS special on Alice did not give me the impression that Alice was happy about the situation. She wants to meet her grandson. And if her feelings are anything like mine, she wants to restore at least some modicum of the love she and her daughter once had for each other.

    Will it happen? There may not be a lot of years left before death does its thing. So there’s no knowing. As for me, there is nothing I can do. My daughter will not talk to me or hear anything that I might have to say. No therapy for us, according to her. So from her side, the door has been closed. Sometimes life is pretty sucky.