JTA — Alice Walker, the renowned author of “The Color Purple,” won’t be joining the University of Michigan at the 50th anniversary of its Center for the Education of Women. According to a blog post on Walker’s website, her invitation was withdrawn by the center at the initiative of donors, a claim the center denies.
Walker is by now well-known for her dim view of Israel. She has engaged in several public initiatives protesting Israeli treatment of Palestinians, including a widely publicized refusal to allow an Israeli publishing house to translate “The Color Purple” into Hebrew. That move was part of what Walker called “a cultural boycott of Israel and Israeli institutions” in an open letter to musician Alicia Keys urging her not to perform in Israel. (Keys performed anyway.)
Walker also participated in the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, an “international people’s tribunal” created in response to a perceived failure of international institutions to act on Israel’s “recognised violations of international law.”
Walker’s post is sympathetic to the financial constraints the center is operating under and portrays the incident as evidence that women need their own financial power. “Such behavior, as evidenced by the donors, teaches us our weakness, which should eventually (and soon) show us our strength: women must be in control of our own finances,” she writes. “Not just in the family, but in the schools, work force, and everywhere else. Until we control this part of our lives, our very choices, in any and every area, can be denied us.”
Gloria Thomas, the center’s director, denied that donors had anything to do with the retracted invitation, but she declined to specify exactly what happened. Walker is not “the optimum choice for the celebratory nature of our 50th anniversary event,” she said.