A real treasure never loses its value, even when it is taken from its admirers. Groundbreaking author Virginia Hamilton was a treasure, and though she is no longer with us, her treasure--her voice, still shines. Her writing is as valuable today as it ever was.
Virginia Hamilton: Speeches, Essays & Conversations, is a brilliantly-compiled collection of Hamilton's essays, carefully and lovingly edited by husband Arnold Adoff, and Kacy Cook. Hamilton was a fearless African American writer who broke new ground in children's literature and expanded the African American voice in the publishing industry. Each of her essays is a lesson--funny or sentimental or somber, where writers learn everything from mining memories for future stories to how to use their writing to give adolescents a voice.
Now, this book is by no means easy reading. I found Hamilton's voice as brilliant and complex as the diverse audiences who adored her books. "My fictions for young people," she wrote in a 1981 speech, "derive from the progress of black adults and their children across the American hopescape." I found this concept--American hopescape--and other such concepts in the book, delightfully challenging, and found myself reading and re-reading passages to be certain I understood just what this intellectual genius was trying to convey.
But challenge or not, this book slowly transformed from just another book on my review list to a priceless handbook for both the aspiring and the accomplished writer. Every essay compelled me to tap into my creative self; to accept responsibility for the words and themes I choose to write.
Hamilton may have left us nine years ago, but with this book, her voice can still be heard. In my humble opinion, Virginia Hamilton: Speeches, Essays & Conversations, is nothing less than a writer's handbook, and one that no YA or MG writer can afford to be without.
Thank you, Arnold Adoff, for sharing your wife with those of us who were not fortunate enough to meet her or hear her speak. You are indeed as generous as she was, and you are appreciated.
Footnote: You may visit Virginia Hamilton's updated website at: www.VirginiaHamilton.com.