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“But sitting there with them does bring back all these repressed difficulties.” Walker is referring particularly to being shot and blinded in her right eye by her brother, Curtis, firing an air rifle when she was 8.Growing up in Georgia, she was the eighth child of her father Willie Lee, a share-cropper, and mother Minnie, a part-time maid.

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Her 2004 novel critic Michiko Kakutani as a “cloying collection of New Age homilies”.Evidently, Walker didn’t care much about this mauling, as her new book is about the spiritual fulfilment she finds in keeping chickens.“By the time the truth came out, it was too late to save the sight in that eye.I remember sitting on the porch, watching the blood cover the tree I was looking at. He shot people, beat them with the handles of guns, used cocaine and he died before I had a chance to thank him.At the same age she was shot, she was also tasked with wringing the neck of one of the family’s chickens, which signified “a rupture in the relationship to the animal: once you start killing something to eat it, you destroy a relationship based on tenderness” . “We were playing cowboys and indians, and because I was a girl, I was an indian.

I was standing on top of a makeshift garage made of corrugated tin when the pellet hit me. Only later did it really hurt.” Help wasn’t immediately forthcoming.

That’s the last thing I saw out of my right eye.” Today she sees the blinding as a cause and metaphor for “the headless chicken” she was as a child, though she also claims to see “so much of my internal self and the truth of others” with her blind eye. I work the other one so much, I constantly thank it for its hardiness and its solidarity with my obsession to write and bear witness. After her injury, she went to college on a scholarship, then university, receiving a bachelor of arts degree in 1965. I survived and I would have died if I had stayed there.” Walker shows me a blurry black-and-white picture of her father in the fields.

I accept the limitation and the gift of it.” Really, a gift? She imagines the life he “should” have had: a university professor. Before I came along, the last child, he had lots of joie de vivre, loved to dance and cook. He had emphysema, diabetes, heart trouble, fell asleep while he was talking.

The cigarettes he smoked would drop and start little fires on him.

I loved my parents very much, but my father and I fought like crazy. He thought there were some jobs boys shouldn’t do, like washing dishes and sweeping the floor.

Now I feel he’s playing along with some fairly evil personalities around him: bankers and such.