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Discovering Virginia Hamilton

How is it that I am just learning about Virginia Hamilton, America's most honored writer of Children's literature? I don't remember learning about her when I was
in school, even though she was the first African-American writer to win a Newbery Award. It's likely a librarian introduced
my class to her books during Black
History Month at some point, but maybe the fact that I wasn't aware of the term "multiculturalism" until I went to college reveals my ignorance. Now I'm quite impressed that she's a female writer
whose papers have been catalogued in the Library of Congress, and that she's the first Children's book author to receive the MacArthur ("genius") Fellowship, among dozens of other lofty recognitions.
And I'm fascinated that the Conference in her name on Multicultural Literature for Youth at Kent State University has been going on
for 25 years.

A recently published collection of her writings by her husband
Arnold Adoff, with writer/editor Kacy Cook, entitled Virginia Hamilton: Speeches, Essays & Conversations finally introduced
her to me. In these speeches, she talks about her creative process,
her family, and her passion for writing every single day. She
explains that none of her characters ever die in her stories, despite the sometimes overwhelming circumstances she created for them. Instead she insisted they overcome and survive, because she thought real life was already full of senseless death. 

I am inspired by her words, by her ability to write so powerfully,
and by the example she set that I'd like to think made the reality
of race in my lifetime less of a barrier separating each of us from one another. Though there is still much to learn from her stories
as issues of race, culture and equality continue to complicate our
world, the ripples she cast out from her work did help change it.
My impression is that at the time she wrote these stories, she wasn't entirely convinced that they would. Sadly she passed away in 2002 from breast cancer, so I thank Arnold & Kacy for highlighting her wisdom and remarkable contributions, and honor them both with this week's Thrive Theory Award. My hope is that Virginia Hamilton will
be known to many more people outside of the literary world and
Black History Month as simply an iconic, American writer.

More information about Virginia Hamilton is available here.
Kacy Cook's highly acclaimed novel Nuts, the first in a series for
kids, is also available here.

Reader Comments (2)


Arnold and I appreciate this lovely tribute and support your ongoing efforts to inspire and encourage others with the achievements of great women. Thank you for shining a light on Virginia's exceptional literary contributions so others can enjoy them, too.

Kacy Cook

November 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKacy Cook

Thankfully I have met both Virgina & Arnold when I was a teacher - great stuff here in Ohio. Jenn - if you haven't been to Yellow Springs, you must go!

November 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTricia K.

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