Rebecca Walker was born in Jackson, in segregated Mississippi, to white civil rights lawyer Melvyn Leventhal and black writer Alice Walker. From that moment her unchosen destiny was to be a "bridge." After her parents' divorce when she was eight, she was left as the sole reminder of their attempt to cross the racial divide.
She spent her childhood moving every two years, between her father in New York and her mother wherever she was living at that point, leading Walker to describe herself as "biracial, bisexual, and bicoastal." It was an isolating experience, and she felt she belonged nowhere, neither with her mother's Southern black family nor with her father's Eastern Jewish one. Desperate for someone to love her whole self and her "misfit" body, she began to have sex at an early age.
By the time she graduated from the Urban High School of San Francisco, Walker had appeared to settle into an identity. She was an unreservedly confident black woman who had taken her mother's last name. Meeting everyone's expectations, she attended Yale and graduated Cum Laude. She then threw herself into an activist career, starting the Third Wave Foundation to fund young women and girls in their endeavors to change society.
She became a well-known advocate for choice and a voice of the generation coming of age in the early '90s, writing many articles and producing television programs. She published her first book, To Be Real, reflections on a diverse set of feminisms. She and her then partner opened a cybercafe in innercity Brooklyn. Time Magazine even named her one of the fifty young leaders to watch in the new century.
But the cumulative effects of a life lived across the borders of identity, be they racial or sexual, took its toll. Walker decided that activism did not make her happy. She increasingly embraced Buddhism, which helped her learn to do what was best for her inner balance. She also began to write for herself.
In 2000 she published the story of her early life, White, Black, and Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self, in which she finally confronted her past. The book shocked both her parents and alienated her mother, who had made her own identity by writing. Eventually her parents came to accept that her writings were not an indictment of them, but a reflection of her singular experiences and emotions.
After the four-year process of writing the book, Walker felt cleansed and whole for the first time, and able to see her life as a coherent progress. She is at work on another book and travels the country speaking to young women. She lives with her partner, songwriter MeShell N'degeOcello, and their son.