A Letter to Virginia Hamilton

At the culmination of the acceptance speech for the Virginia Hamilton Literary Award for Multicultural Literature at Kent State University, Pam Muñoz Ryan, read “A Letter to Virginia Hamilton.”

Dear Virginia Hamilton,

I never met you on this earth. I met you in your books. And I have only recently come to know more, through the books others wrote about you.

Do you know that you continue to touch people’s lives with your indomitable spirit?  Do you know that your legacy is a presence to which people lean and reach out?  Do you know that I look ahead on my own parallel path and I see you in front of me?

I did not get to this podium today without you.  You walked before me. You swept my path clean and free from noisy hate.  You removed the boulders on which I might have stumbled.  You weeded the negative and the un-informed, plucking them with your nimble fingers and tossing them away from my footfalls.

Oh . . .and those roses you planted alongside our road!  They have grown those roses!

Someday, Virginia Hamilton, when I sit with you  to have tea, in that place between soul and star, I will tell you about the roses. How the briars hold back the ignorant.  How the long-stemmed red blossoms continue to resonate with fire and passion.  How the yellow, constant-blooming floribundas burst with personal epiphanies.  How the pink Cecil Brunners trail for miles . . .  with the gratitude of readers.

And I will tell you, too, how much I loved the brilliant escort of what you once planted – all those roses, nodding their heads at me, as if to say, “Yes . . .yes.”

Virginia Hamilton . . .how did you know that I would walk this way?

Pam Muñoz Ryan
April 9, 2010