Virginia Hamilton, Speeches, Essays, & Conversations, edited by her husband Arnold Adoff and Kacy Cook.
Virginia Hamilton was and still is a major literary figure whose work has been recognized with nearly every possible children’s literary award. Her books for children show the concerns and struggles of individual children while at the same time revealing the universalities we all share.
One of my favorite quotes is from Hamilton’s address to the 1990 graduating class of Bank Street College of Education: “We made the assumption some time ago in this country to advocate not only the fundamental right of all children to read, but also their right to books that reflect their cultural and racial heritage. This is a unique if not a stunning concept for which numbers of nonwhite and white Americans have worked hard to make a reality…. Literature, like justice begins on a simple, human level. Such as paying attention, listening, answering questions, seeing the problems, and sensing that our understanding, our kindness, serves a good purpose.”
ZEELY was the first book of Virginia Hamilton’s, published in 1967. BLUISH was her twentieth, published just two years before her untimely death in 2002. Each book has its own strong and unique voice, a strong and unique theme. But each book, each story, successfully reflects Virginia’s goal: “she saw her work as helping to portray ‘the essence of a people who are a parallel culture community of America,’ while at the same time revealing the universality among peoples.”
BLUISH was reviewed earlier this year here at www.thepiratetree.com by Ann Angel. This first-person narrative brings us into the world of Dreenie and her fifth-grade class. Students are confronted with an uncomfortable situation: a new kid. Worse than that, the New Kid is strange – acts weird and looks, well, “bluish,” maybe about to die, usually too weak to leave her wheelchair. Bluish is scary.
Cancer…is it contagious? You never know. The kids stay away from Bluish except for one, Dreenie. But her feelings are conflicted. What if everyone will soon stay away from her if she gets too close to Bluish?
The book not only shows us Dreenie’s struggle with friendships and bullies as well as her own fears, the book also shows us the struggle of a “cancer kid:” how to be independent, how to be at least a little bit normal, and how to be a friend.
Read more of Virginia Hamilton’s own words. They are prophetic, powerful, and poetic. Virginia Hamilton, Speeches, Essays, & Conversations was edited by her husband Arnold Adoff working with Kacy Cook, (2010). For more information, look at the official Virginia Hamilton website: www.virginiahamilton.com. It’s beautiful.