Virginia Hamilton and the History of Ghosts in Black Literature
This Week on the NewberyTart Podcast
Each week on NewberyTart, Jennie and Marcy, two book-loving mamas (and a librarian and a bookseller, respectively), read and drink their way through the entire catalogue of Newbery books, and interview authors and illustrators along the way.
In this episode, Marcy and Jennie review the 1982 Newbery Honor book Sweet Whispers, Brother Rush, by Virginia Hamilton.
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From the episode:
Marcy: The way things are done are so smooth in this book. The story itself for me can be a little turbulent, but the devices in the book, if that makes sense, are so clear and smooth. The ghost has this mirror, and he is literally carrying the past with him. He is their family carrying their past. Like, that’s such a clear and easy to understand thing, and it functions so well in the story. It’s kind of amazing.
There’s this really interesting article about the use of ghosts in black literary works, specifically this book and Beloved by Toni Morrison. She quotes Toni Morrison talking about Beloved, saying that if we don’t keep in touch with our ancestors, we are in fact lost. And I think that’s really the point of what the ghost is doing. He’s trying to help them from being lost. I feel like he’s trying to save them from that. Although the interesting thing to me about this book and the thing that seems a little muddled is I don’t feel like he does save them.
NewberyTart is a podcast about kids’ books, for adults, and is recorded in Atlanta, Georgia, by two friends who approach the Newbery thing from very different, but surprisingly complementary, directions. The show is edited by Harper W. Harris of Strange World Sounds. The music was written and performed by Alan Thornton of the Throckmorton Ukulele Band. Graphic design was provided by Liz Mytinger, who was not at all daunted to be asked to add glasses and eyelashes to anthropomorphic blueberries.
Virginia Hamilton (1936-2002) was one of the most highly acclaimed writers of her time. Her many awards included the National Book Award, the John Newbery Medal, the Coretta Scott King Award (twice), the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award (twice), the Edgar Allan Poe Award, the Ohioana Book Award, and two of her novels were cited as Newbery Honor Books. She was a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Queen College and the Ohio State University. Ms. Hamilton was married to poet/author Arnold Adoff and divided her time between New York City and Ohio.