THE CHICKEN CHRONICLES
By Alice Walker
Ms. Hen found this book by chance in a bookstore in Washington D.C. called Busboys and Poets. She knew it was destiny because it has a chicken on the cover that looks just like her. She read the first few pages and decided to buy it.
This memoir is about Alice Walker’s experience owning and taking care of chickens in her home in Northern California. She had always wanted chickens, but then she saw a chicken and her brood crossing the road and she was enraptured. She thought she had never seen a chicken so beautiful before, even though she had been raised in the South and had chickens when she was young.
Ms. Walker acquired some chickens and she grew to love them. She would watch them and they would bring her joy. The chickens all had names: Glorious, Rufus, Gertrude Stein, Splendor, Hortensia, Agnes of God, the Gladyses and Babe. She loved them like her children. She is a vegetarian and every time she ate chicken by mistake she felt ashamed and guilty.
The chickens brought back her memories of her childhood. She remembered her mother’s thumb that appeared disfigured. She remembered going to church on Sunday and seeing her mother all dressed up. She remembered her siblings and other members of the family leaving home, and how she felt sad when they left. The chickens helped her remember what it was like to be young and how she felt as a child. The chickens did many things.
Ms. Walker traveled a lot to India and Nepal while she was taking care of the chickens. Some chapters of the book are letter to the chickens, who she calls her girls, telling them about the things she saw and did when she traveled.
Ms. Hen thought it was strange that Ms. Walker wrote letters to her chickens. Ms. Hen is strange, so she understood this. It’s like Ms. Hen having opinions of things. She does it to make herself feel better. People have to do what they can to survive, and if Alice Walker thinks it’s okay to write letters to her chickens to tell them about India, Ms. Hen is fine with that. Ms. Hen is a strange hen, and she admires people and chickens that can go out on a limb and be different.
Ms. Hen can’t stand people and things that are normal. She thinks that nobody is normal, but some people can’t help but try to fit in. When she’s an old hen, she wants to be as strange as Alice Walker and maybe write letters to chickens from Nepal or somewhere else that’s just as exciting. She doesn’t want to sit on her couch and watch soap operas and worry about game shows and celebrities.
When Ms. Hen is an old hen, she wants to be able to write a book as beautiful as this one. It’s small and could be a fast read, but it should not be read too quickly. It should be savored like a good cup of coffee, drinking every last drop to experience the taste and beauty of the whole thing.