Monday, February 20, 2017

Loving vs. Virginia: A Review and Autographed ARC Giveaway!

Congratulations to Connie Saunders for winning AUDACITY JONES STEALS THE SHOW.

Loving vs. Virginia (Chronicle Books, February 2017)  by Patricia Hruby Powell is more than just a book about the interracial couple who challenged Virginia's anti-miscegenation law. It is a documentary novel, which combines free verse, black and white illustrations by Shadra Strickland in the Visual Journalism style, period photographs, and copies of civil rights documents. The net result is a book which will teach middle and high school students about the black struggle for equal rights. 

As I often do when reviewing free verse novels, here are excerpts from some poems that show Mildred and Richard's love and struggles. These quotes speak for themselves; Powell's poignant verse intimately connects the characters with the reader.

(this is in the middle of a poem about a community gathering at Mildred's house. Fall 1952)

One of the fathers calls
a square dance
and everyone joins in.
Otha dances
Mama dances
Lewis dances
I surely dance.
Some of the big boys dance.
Mr. and Mrs. Loving--
eyes fastened on each other
even when they've been passed
to the next person--
their names are
Twilley and Lola.
I love their names. 
But we call them
Mr. and Mrs. Loving
of course.
And they pretty much are.

If I stop and watch
I see young and old--
Indians, Negroes, Whites--
all mixed together. 
Everyone likes each other 
in our neighborhood.
Everyone dancing

Whites and coloreds--
we go to different schools--
to different churches,
drink from different water fountains.
But our section is different.

My world is right here
in Central Point.
That's what it's called.
Central Point,
the center
of my universe.
My family.
My world. (p. 27-28)

(In this poem Richard hitches a ride from his black friend, Ray. The local sheriff pulls them over. Fall 1952)

Me, I'm white, but my daddy,
he drives a truck for P.E. Boyd Byrd--
maybe the richest roundest jolliest "colored" farmer in the section.
In other parts, a white man working for a colored man--
that would be unusual.
But that's how it is here in Central Point.

Sheriff don't like this one lousy bit.
White man puts hisself beneath a colored man?
Workin' for him?
Worse than being colored, right, Sheriff?
'Course I didn't say that.
Just thinkin'.

Sheriff looked like he was chewin' on his teeth,
kept turnin' over that itty-bitty license,
trying to figure out what mean thing he could to us.
We wait quiet
while he walked back to his car.

To Sheriff Brooks there are only two races--
white and colored.
In all of Virginia, just two races--
white and colored.

We know Sheriff ain't done with us,
but he let us of for now. (p. 31-32)

(This poem touched me since Mildred reflects on the two of them being seen in public together. She alludes to how some folks have passed and left their community. This theme is echoed in Half-Truths. July, 1956)

Richard once said,
      "It could be worse, Bean.
       If you was the white one
       and I was the colored one,
       people saw us together?
       They'd lynch me.
       We can do this."

I'm not really dark--
'bout the color of a grocery sack--
and I have good hair,
but I surely
There are plenty of people
from our section,
who are mixed like I am--
and one day,
when they're grown,
they leave home
and never ever
come back.
And we know they
into white society--
away from 
where everyone knows you,
where everyone truly
cares about you.
I feel sorry for them
who pass-
and don't come
home. (p. 82-3)

(after Mildred is denied access to a dance. October, 1956)

The moment they said,
No, you can't go in,
he saw--
I know he really saw--
what it is 
to be colored.
His face folds up
He steps out of the car.
I wail.
He's gone what feels like
in the dark.

I'm in the car whimpering.

He comes back.

Drives me home. (p. 93-94)

(This is after Mildred gets pregnant with their second child. May, 1958)

Ray said, You can't marry a colored girl. Not in Virginia. 
     "You're white, Man. Did you forget that?

I told him, "We'll do the marrying in D.C.

He said, "For godsakes, Man, live next door to her,
        if you have to be big about it.
        Look at Farmer.

In our section
white man named Farmer
set up his colored woman in a little house
and he lived next door.
They have a mess of kids.
Everyone knows, but no one says.
All his kids take her name and when they grow up, they
pass as white people.
Away from here.

Farmer didn't want to rock the boat.

Millie deserves better.
I called Ray a pig. I called him worse than that. 
Ray said, You are dreamin'. You been rockin' Sheriff's
      racial hatred
      a long time--
      pretending all y'all ain't no different,
      everyone the same.
      Race mixing?
      That ain't gonna slide in Caroline County. (p. 113-114)

(After their second child is born, October 1958)

I stand before Justice of the Peace
Edward Stehl III
in the Bowling Green courthouse.
I am told I acted
"unlawfully and feloniously"
by marrying a white man.
Our lawyer, Mr. Beazley,
advises me to plead
just like Richard did
at his hearing in July.

And then I go home
to my baby
and little Sidney.
You'd think that 
they'd want 
us to be married,
what with a child and all.

But it's our beautiful brown baby
that is the problem.
This perfect baby is the result
of race mixing.
This child is the very reason
they don't want us married. (p. 147-148)

(After Mildred wrote to Bobby Kennedy and the ACLU, Mr. Cohen, a lawyer called them. September, 1963)

We went to the lawyer's little office--
nothin' fancy--
and talk and talk and talk.
He said something like,
      I think we can win, but it will be a long process.

     More than a month? Why?
     We just want to live as husband endwise in Virginia.
What is so difficult about that?

Mildred put her hand on my wrist.

Then he said,
      If you were to go back to Virginia together--
     get rearrested-
     that might be a good way
     to get this back in the courts.

This guy is complete nuts.
Mildred grabbed hold of my hand
real tight--
like she thought I'd get up and walk out. (p.188)


Nine years after Mildred and Richard were married, in the famous Loving vs. Virginia case, Chief Justice Warren and the eight associate justices ruled unanimously that marriage between members of different races was not unconstitutional, thus ending all race-based legal restrictions on marriage.

Mildred and Richard went home.

Illustration by Shadra Strickland

I have an autographed ARC to give to one fortunate reader. If you are new to my blog, share this on social media, or are a teacher/home school educator and plan to use this in your classroom, please let me know and I'll put your name in twice. Giveaway ends February 24th. 

Please see this interview with Powell that provides some of the backstory for this book; and an interview with Strickland with glimpses into her studio and this book.


Connie Porter Saunders said...

The poetry shared in this post is beautiful and Mildred and Richard's story is one that needs to be shared. Carol, thank you for this giveaway. I also shared on Twitter.


Carol Baldwin said...

The poetry is beautiful, Connie. Thanks for sharing on Twitter. Your name goes in twice and starts the list!

Theresa Milstein said...

Wow, some really powerful excerpts. I would love a chance to win this! I'm a teacher. I'll share this on Twitter and Facebook too.

tmilstein at gmail dot com

Carol Baldwin said...

I knew you would love this book, Theresa. Even if you don't win it, I hope you get your hands on it and share it with your students. It's powerful. You're in twice.

Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

"Then he said,
If you were to go back to Virginia together--
get rearrested-
that might be a good way
to get this back in the courts.

This guy is complete nuts."

LOL! That's funny.

A documentary novel? I'm in. Totally in! Please don't give this to anybody else. Just kidding of course. This would be a terrific book for classroom teachers to use. So timely too.

Will share on FB.

Carol Baldwin said...

Glad to see your name here, Joyce. You and your grandkids would love this book. You're in twice.

Linda A. said...

Carol, Such a great book concept. Thanks for sharing yet another great review.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thank you, Linda. Happy to add your name to the list.

Janelle said...

Thanks for sharing this book, Carol! The story of the Lovings is so important! We've been working hard in my little town to encourage people to see the related movie ("Loving") as well. This looks like a wonderful book.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Janelle. Nice to hear your voice here! I assume you are still in the states, right?

Rosi said...

I promised myself I would start out of drawings until I get caught up on my reading, and then you do this. Yes, please, put my name in the hat. I really want to read this wonderful book. Thanks for the post.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Rosi--I often feel the same way about your blog. You're in!

THE DOUBLE CROSSING by Sylvia Patience: A Middle Grade Historical Fiction Review, Author Interview, & Giveaway

  Sylvia Patience , the author of The Double Crossing   ( Paper Angel Press, 2023),   reached out to me with a request to review her histori...