Virginia Hamilton: Speeches, Essays, and Conversations

Press Release

Contact:  Susan Salzman Raab


Breaking new ground came naturally to Virginia Hamilton. In 1967, the publication of her first book, Zeely, launched the modern era of African American children’s fiction. Through her more than forty award-winning books spanning multiple genres, in scores of speeches worldwide, and in essays for prominent magazines and journals, Hamilton helped to bridge cultures and generations. In 2010, eight years after her death, this important legacy continues to grow.

Virginia Hamilton: Speeches, Essays and Conversations, published in February by The Blue Sky Press/Scholastic and co-edited by Arnold Adoff (Hamilton’s husband) and Kacy Cook, gives us Hamilton’s voice throughout her career, from her first nationally published essay in 1971 to her final speech at a children’s book festival in 2001. Through these pieces, Hamilton explored her creative process and shared her views on the role of the writer as well as insights on the central themes of her work.

Syndicated reviewer Kam Williams praises the book as “a rich portrait of a literary icon revealing her to be a brilliant, opinionated and, fiercely independent soul whose legacy and innovative approach to storytelling deserves to be the subject of study not merely by African Americans but by English scholars of all hues for generations to come.” Publishers Weekly agrees: “Fans and scholars alike will value her intimate discussion of her craft in such beloved works as The Planet of Junior Brown and M.C. Higgins, the Great.” Kirkus Reviews says, “By any standards Hamilton was an unusually clear thinker and brilliant wordsmith. Here a lesser-known facet of her glittering reputation gets a fresh shine.”

Hamilton’s legacy continues through the efforts of her husband, poet and anthologist Arnold Adoff. He has revised and updated her website ( and is offering there the full text of Hamilton’s Newbery Medal Acceptance Speech as a preview of the new book.

Beginning this year, the American Library Association is presenting a new award to honor her memory. The Coretta Scott King–Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement will be given for lasting and significant contributions to youth or young adult multicultural literature, alternating each year between authors/illustrators and practitioners. The first recipient of the award, announced Jan. 18 at the ALA Midwinter Conference, is Walter Dean Myers.

Adoff has made Hamilton’s papers available to scholars and researchers by donating them to the Library of Congress, and April will mark the opening of the Virginia Hamilton and Arnold Adoff Resource Center at Wright State University’s Bolinga Center.

Hamilton is America’s most highly honored author of children’s books. She was the first African American to win the Newbery Medal, the first children’s author to win the MacArthur Fellowship (“Genius” award), and one of only a handful of Americans to win the international Hans Christian Andersen Medal, know as “The Little Nobel Prize.”  She also won the National Book Award, the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award, the Coretta Scott King Award, the Edgar Allan Poe Award, and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for her body of work, among many others. The Virginia Hamilton Conference, held each spring at Kent State University, is the longest running conference on multicultural literature for youth in the country.


Virginia Hamilton: Speeches, Essays, and Conversations
Edited by Arnold Adoff and Kacy Cook
Published by The Blue Sky Press/Scholastic
February 2010
Ages 10-up
Price $29.99 hc
ISBN:  978-0-439-27193-6