to have had the opportunity to correspond with the late Virginia Hamilton’s husband, Arnold Adoff. We shared our profound grief at the losses and the devastation in Haiti. And ironically, while reading the book he co-authored, somehow I found great solace in many of her Speeches, Essays & Conversations. Her words have an uncanny way of comforting, no matter what is unfolding in one’s personal life.
Arnold Adoff and Kacy Cook compiled a book of Speeches, Essays, & Conversations [The Blue Sky Press, February 2010] of Virginia’s powerful works. And as I’ve said in previous posts, this book has quickly become the guidebook for me on how to move forward with the W.A.R movement. Virginia Hamilton was indeed, one of the original pioneers, who spoke eloquently about the importance of exposing our young people to a variety of literature, from a variety of genres and authors. Here are some quotes from Speeches, Essays, & Conversations that I found most poignant and come directly from Virginia’s heart and passions.
"Pressure is great on all writers and particularly nonwhite writers today to be relevant to an extreme and beyond, serving the cultural needs of our heterogenenous society. Generally, children’s books fall into two broad categories: those that are written to fill a need and those that are written and may or may not fill a need."
"I would be happy if more teachers would subscribe to the periodical Interracial Books for Children, which over a period of time gives a comprehensive view of nonwhite literature and varying nonwhite attitudes.
I would think teachers would want to make use of stories having to do with black culture, specific tribes of The People, Spanish Culture — not as supplements to the body of offerings in American literature, but as tributaries feeding into and increasingand strengthening the body." (Nonwhite Literature As American Literature: A Proposal for Cultural Democracy)
"Children and adolescents must not remain voiceless in the struggle for their survival and welfare. We writers can, through our books, help them become advocates of their own human rights." (Essay from SLJ Mission to Moscow 1979)
"I call myself a writer, as I have since my college days. Not a children’s book writer, not a woman writer, not an American writer, not a black writer. Not a black American woman children’s book writer. But a writer." (Regina Medal Acceptance Speech – 1990)
"I hope teachers realize their power and the importance of kindness and fairness as well as firmness. How one mixes the magic potion of the creative process, heritage, ethnicity, place and time, and language, makes the magic of words and writing."
"Never send a poet for a much-needed stick of butter or a carton of milk — he could be gone for hours. But good books of poetry do develop for him out of this simple exercise of walking, seeing, thinking." (Together: Virginia Hamilton and Arnold Adoff – Annual Writing Improvement Network Literature Conference, 1992)
This book is not just for writers. It’s a book for everyone, as it shares her inner thoughts about love, humanity, children, peace, family, spouses and more.
Also, I am thrilled that Arnold Adoff agreed to an interview with me about Life With Virginia Hamilton. I look forward to it.
For more visit http://www.virginiahamilton.com