Loving vs. Virginia
Patricia Hruby Powell
Illustrations by Shadra Strickland
Available January 31, 2017
Summary from Goodreads
From acclaimed author Patricia Hruby Powell comes the story of a landmark civil rights case, told in spare and gorgeous verse. In 1955, in Caroline County, Virginia, amidst segregation and prejudice, injustice and cruelty, two teenagers fell in love. Their life together broke the law, but their determination would change it. Richard and Mildred Loving were at the heart of a Supreme Court case that legalized marriage between races, and a story of the devoted couple who faced discrimination, fought it, and won.
Somehow I missed the fact that this novel is told in verse—which is admittedly ridiculous, since it’s one of the first things stated about Loving vs. Virginia. Actually, I thought I would be reading a nonfiction narrative relating the story of Richard and Mildred Loving, so discovering the stark, emotive poetry in which Mildred and Richard tell their stories surprised and delighted me.
Each chapter paints a specific scene in the tale of their love. The poems create a sense of time and culture in few words and really drew me into the emotions of the characters. Fans of novel-in-verse storytelling and of historical fiction and romance should definitely read this book. Honestly, I felt like reading Loving vs. Virginia made me stop and think about how short a time ago in our history a man and woman were denied the right to love one another and be married because of their race. I loved the message of hope and triumph in the story and the inclusion of historical timelines and other information. Those helped craft a larger understanding of what was happening in the country at the time this story really happened.
Recommended for Ages 13 up
This novel in poetry follows the historical story of Richard and Mildred Loving, a white man and black woman who fell in love and married in a time when interracial marriage remained illegal in their home state of Virginia. The novel shows some of the experiences of racism and prejudice against the couple and their friends.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Mild profanity used infrequently.
No explicit descriptions of sex, but readers do understand that Richard and Mildred have sex before getting married. Mildred becomes pregnant with his child more than once. At one point she makes a comment about how a man has needs—saying that she may feel guilty about having sex with him, but kind of a shrug of the shoulders, men-have-needs. I feel like, within the historical context, that kind of thinking may have been the understanding between men and women, but I wish that somewhere the author had addressed it or hinted about the lack of balance and equality in that idea. (Men are not excused from responsibility for their sexual conduct on the grounds that they “have needs”.) This might be an angle to discuss with readers either as a parent or within a classroom setting.
See violent content.
Mildred spends time in jail because she married a white man. The jailer threatens her, marching male prisoners past her cell and insinuating that he might let them assault her. It’s brief and without graphic description, but may be startling to some readers.