Author Alice Walker discussed her affair in the 90s with folksy alternative music artist Tracy Chapman in a recent interview. She said she didn’t want to serve as anyone’s poster woman for lesbianism, and that’s why she’s kept quiet about it up until now.
I tell her people are still fascinated by her love affair with the singer Tracy Chapman in the mid-1990s. Moments earlier she had said firmly but politely that she didn’t want to answer any questions about her family life. (Her daughter Rebecca, from her marriage to Levanthal, published a frank memoir in 2000 in which she criticised the self-absorption of both parents after their divorce.) So I was surprised to see her face light up at the mention of Chapman. “Yeah I loved it too. Absolutely.”
Why was it kept so quiet at the time? “It was quiet to you maybe but that’s because you didn’t live in our area,” she answers with a throaty laugh. She has written about the relationship in her journals, which she plans to publish one day. So why did they decide against using their relationship to make a big social impact like other celebrity lesbian couples, such as Ellen DeGeneres and Anne Heche, have in the past? The idea seems to amuse her. “I would never do that. My life is not to be somebody else’s impact – you know what I mean? And it was delicious and lovely and wonderful and I totally enjoyed it and I was completely in love with her but it was not anybody’s business but ours.”
Alice Walker has a new book of controversial politically-minded essays out called, “We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For,” that her more mainstream publisher, Random House, would not print. It is put out by New Press.
When Walker and Chapman were together, Walker would have been about 40 while Chapman was around 30. It doesn’t seem that surprising that they had an affair, and good for Walker for owing up to it. Now if only Alice Walker champion Oprah would admit to a relationship with her best friend Gail, that would make headlines.