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February 1, 2015

What Black History Month Should Be

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Alice Walker's Estranged Daughter Makes Startling Revelations About 'Color Purple' Author

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It's hard following in the footsteps of your mother, especially when she's 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 3-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 to upholding feminist principles.

She co-founded a nonprofit, Third Wave Foundation, to encourage activism in young women 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.

She was also a contributing editor to several notable publications, including Essence, Ms., Glamour, Interview, Vibe and Mademoiselle. 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 a hit Broadway musical of the same name, the Georgia native has published poetry, novels and nonfiction works, in addition to being honored with the Radcliffe Institute Fellowship, the Merrill Fellowship, and a Guggenheim Fellowship.

The personal lives of mother and daughter 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 with singer-songwriter Tracy Chapman.

Still, Rebecca believes her mother was selfish, taking off in her teenager years for a two-month jaunt to Greece and leaving her with relatives. When she was younger, Rebecca says, her mother forbade 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," Rebecca noted.

According to Rebecca, Alice called her a "delightful distraction, but a calamity nevertheless." It was something that she said was "a huge shock and very upsetting."

The two women were estranged after Rebecca's 2000 memoir, 'Black, White and Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self' was released. Her mother was unhappy about some of her reflections in the tome.

Still, their communication did not cease until Rebecca became pregnant with her first child in 2004.

"I was at one of her homes, sitting, and told her my news and that I'd never been happier. She went very quiet. All she could say was that she was shocked. Then, she asked if I could check on her garden."

An e-mail correspondence followed between the two women after Alice became upset at an interview in which Rebecca mentioned that her parents did not protect or look out for her. Now, according to Rebecca, she's been cut out of her mother's will.

"She wrote me a letter saying that our relationship has been inconsequential for years, and that she is no longer interested in being my mother," Rebecca noted.

"I have since heard that my mother has cut me out of her will in favor of one of my cousins," she added. "I feel terribly sad – my mother is missing such a great opportunity to be close to her family, but I'm also relieved. Unlike most mothers, mine has never taken any pride in my achievements."

"I've done all I can to be a loyal, loving daughter, but I can no longer have this poisonous relationship destroy my life."

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