Kirkus Reviews

Before she died, Hamilton (1934-2002), likely the most honored writer for young people ever, also had a thing or two to tell adult audiences about her art, craft, milieu and African-American identity. Most of those observations were aired in award speeches, keynote talks and interviews that were published, if at all, in professional journals. Adoff, the author’s husband, gathers more than 30 addresses along with “rememories”—her term, defined as “an exquisitely textured recollection, real or imagined, which is otherwise indescribable”—from him and their two children. The collection begins with a ruminative 1971 self portrait (“Each book must speak ‘This is what I have to say,’ in the hope that each reader will answer ‘That is what I wanted to know’ “), ends with a letter savaging a critic of certain ethnic literary awards and in between carries reflections on her background, her stories and characters, her literary models (notably Hans Christian Andersen) and the effects of being a black female writer. She never repeats herself, but common themes emerge-particularly the central importance of “moral realism” in her writing, and her provocative view that American society is a weave of permanently “parallel cultures,” with those in the minority oppressed, politicized, and represented by writers whose work is infused with racial awareness. Capped by a long list of major awards and an annotated list of works, these selections-more of which will be posted later on the website that Adoff lovingly maintains-will not only spark rememories in those who knew or heard her, but leave readers and writers with profound insights into her mind and spirit. 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.

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