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Loving VS. Virginia: A Documentary Novel of the Landmark Civil Rights Case by Patricia Hruby Powell, artwork by Shadra Strickland,

If the words "Loving v. Virginia" are familiar to you, the first thing they probably make you think of is the landmark court case of 1967 that invalidated laws prohibiting interracial marriage. In her verse novel, Loving VS. Virginia: A Documentary Novel of the Landmark Civil Rights CasePatricia Hruby Powell puts people, emotions and lives to these names and, along with Shadra Strickland, who chose a visual journalism style of illustration, the perfect match for the documentary aspects of the novel that show up as photographs, to court documents, state health bulletins and more, tells the story of Richard and Mildred Loving in a powerful way that will resonate with young readers.

Alternating narrative voices between Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving, Powell begins their story by giving readers a clear idea of what school segregation looked like with a photograph of a white classroom in 1950 beside that of a black classroom in 1941, quoting the words of George Wallace. The races were separate, but clearly not equal. Mildred and her siblings make the walk to their school where they sit at broken desks, learning from ancient textbooks. However, in Central Point, Virginia, "Indians, Negroes, Whites- / all mixed together," especially on Sundays at the Jeter house where there were pot luck dinners, music, dancing and baseball games. This is where Richard, neighbor and friends with her older brothers, first meets Mildred. Already harassed by Sheriff R. G. Brooks for riding around with African Americans, Loving takes a risk when he begins courting Millie.

In 1957 Millie gave birth to their first child. In June of 1958, pregnant with their second child, Richard and Millie go to Washington D.C. to marry, starting the nine year long journey that involved jail time and court case after court case. Arrested in their bed five weeks after they wed, the Lovings are forced to move to Washington D.C. in order to live together. The most painful moments come when Millie speaks of her longing to return to her home Virginia, to raise her children near their maternal and paternal grandparents (Lola Loving, Richard's mother, was also a midwife and delivered Millie's children) aunts, uncles and cousins and grow up in the country, not the city.

Powell includes just the right amount of non-fiction information to keep the realities of the injustices suffered by African Americans present in this very personal story that conveys the love and warmth and connection between the members of the Jeter family and the Lovings. Strickland's illustrations are loose and layered, her palette keeping reader in the time period. Loving VS. Virginia is a stunning book, both in story and as a model of bookmaking. It is sure to draw readers in, keep them reading and feeling, and leave a lasting impression. The back matter, which includes a timeline, bibliography, credits, interview dates (Powell interviewed family members in person and by phone) and a note from the artist. One of the final shocking pieces of information she includes is the fact that, in 2000, thirty-three years after the Supreme Court ruling, Alabama was the final state to reverse anti-miscegenation law.

Source: Review Copy


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