Virginia Hamilton was born in Ohio in 1936, the youngest of five children. She grew up on a farm near Yellow Springs that had been owned by her family since 1850 when her grandfather escaped from slavery. The authoress studied Literature and Creative Writing at Antioch College from 1952 to 1955 before attending Ohio State University. From 1958 to 1960 she continued her studies at the New School for Social Research in New York, where she met and, in 1960, married the poet Arnold Adoff. The couple ironically called themselves a ‘two-Olivetti family’.
Virginia Hamilton’s debut ‘Zeely’ (1967) described the day-to-day life of African-Americans. Like many others, she expresses a new feeling for life: “black is beautiful”. Almost every year she published a work of children’s and teenage literature. One of Virginia Hamilton’s great concerns was to give children an insight into African-American culture. Her desire to write began in early childhood. Both her parents loved reading and story-telling. In her stories she processed childhood experiences and elements of her family’s history. In an interview she noted: “I have generations of memories”.
Her parents’ farm, to which she returned after a 15-year stay in New York to settle down with her husband, created an ideal framework for her literary work. Her book ‘The House of Dies Drear’, published in 1968, won the 1968 Edgar Allan Poe Award. ‘M.C. Higgins, The Great’, her only novel so far been translated into German, made her the first African-American woman to win the Newbery Medal (1975). In 1992, she was awarded the Hans Christian Andersen Prize for her life’s work. Viriginia Hamilton holds several honorary doctorates. The Virginia Hamilton Literary Award has been offered annually since 1998 during the Virginia Hamilton Conference on Multicultural Literary Experiences for Youth. The writer passed away on February 19, 2002.
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