Alice Walker's fiction has always been suffused with meaning and an abiding respect for treating human beings with love and understanding. In this collection of essays, talks, and meditations, she melds her spiritual concerns with her progressive political views and the end result is a very uplifting book. The title is from a phrase that originated with the poet June Jordan. "We are the ones we have been waiting for" reflects a capacious vision that challenges us to put our trust and hope in the goodness of people and their creative possibilities for transforming the planet. Walker says she was never Jordan's close friend but they shared an alliance with the poor and the downtrodden and their struggle to achieve dignity and well-being.

Walker's gifts as a writer are evident in these meditations on peace, justice, and freedom. She describes some of the daunting challenges of our time — the scourge of war, the wounds of racism and other forms of oppression, the rights of women, and the trashing of the environment — and suggests some long-needed remedies. On the last subject, Walker has a wonderful vignette:

"There is another saying from a Native American people that moves me: 'Relative, shift your teepee, Mother Earth needs sunlight.' When I first read this, I cried with joy. Nowhere else had I heard expressed my sense of Earth's suffering at having so much of itself covered with heavy buildings. Teepees of course are not heavy, they're quite light. That a compassionate ancestor still thought this too much weight for the Mother to bear, without being shifted occasionally, stirred my heart with love."

Whether writing or speaking about animals, Castro, grandparents, or water pollution, Walker impresses with her genuine concern for making the most of conscience, intuition, and hope. Here's one of our favorite passages on practice:

"This is not a time to live without a practice. It is a time when all of us will need the most faithful, self-generated enthusiasm (enthusiasm: to be filled with god) in order to survive in human fashion. Whether we reach this inner state of recognized divinity through prayer, meditation, dancing, swimming, walking, feeding the hungry or enriching the impoverished is immaterial. We will be doubly bereft without some form of practice that connects us, in a caring way, to what begins to feel like a dissolving world."