By Terri Schlichenmeyer
People call you a “Dog Person” and you kind of like that. It’s no reflection on you, personally, of course. That moniker just says to the world that you have a love for anything canine, that you probably have a few pups of your own, and that you’ve never known a dog you didn’t like. You probably also know a lot of other Dog People and maybe a few Cat People and Horse People, too.
Author Alice Walker would never cotton to anything so commonplace. No, Walker is a Chicken Person, and in her new memoir “The Chicken Chronicles,” she writes about her newfound friends and what they taught her about life.
Alice Walker had never seen a chicken before.
But, of course, she had. As a child growing up in Georgia, it was her responsibility to chase down Sunday dinner. She’d collected plenty of eggs in her lifetime, too; some for food and some for music lessons.
But she had never really seen a chicken in all its chickenness before – until she noticed a hen with her brood, and it made her look twice. Years passed, but the enticing memory of that hen never left Walker’s mind.
And then, one night after supper with neighbors, the conversation turned to chickens and Walker’s longing for them. It was quickly decided the neighbors would take chick duty and Walker would provide a “chicken condo” for grown birds. Walker built nesting boxes “lovingly and with hopefulness filled with straw.”
By mid-summer, the chickens were hers to tend, so, on a metal stool she’d bought decades before but had never used, Walker perched to meet them. She was surprised at the warmth of the birds, their vibrant colors, and that each had a personality. They liked it when she talked to them and they snuggled like kittens. Soon, she was referring to herself as “Mommy” and her chickens responded.
There was Babe, the one who first trusted Walker. There was Rufus and Agnes of God, aggressive chickens who reminded Walker of race relations and who were “surely” roosters until they began to lay eggs. There was Glorious, who died during a tumultuous time; the Red Gang of Six who eventually were all named Gladys; and other chickens who taught Walker to be mindful of lessons from the past and the preciousness of the present.
If some recent memoirs have you crying “Fowl,” then try this little delight. You won’t be disappointed.
With an eye for wonderment and plenty of surprisingly wry humor, author Alice Walker shakes up fans with a memoir that’s nothing like her novels. Instead, “The Chicken Chronicles” is a series of enchanted musings on Walker’s life and charitable works, the richly-imagined life of her pets, and a powerful sense of gratitude for friends, the Earth and its gifts. I flew through this book, loving every page of it.
For pet lovers, Chicken People, or anyone who craves a perfectly charming memoir, here’s one to read. “The Chicken Chronicles” is worth bringing home to roost.
Terri Schlichenmeyer has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. She lives in West Salem, Wis., with two dogs and more than 9,500 books.