30 Years of the Virginia Hamilton Conference

“Pearls of Wisdom:

Celebrating 30 Years of the Virginia Hamilton Conference”

The 30th Annual Virginia Hamilton Conference on Multicultural Literature for Youth will be held on Thursday, April 3, and Friday, April 4, 2014, at the Kent State University Student Center. The conference provides a forum for discussion of multicultural themes and issues in literature for children and young adults. Pearls of Wisdom: Celebrating 30 Years of the Virginia Hamilton Conference” is the theme for this year’s conference, which will feature the remarkable Christopher Paul Curtis, the talented Andrea Davis Pinkney and the amazing illustrator, David Diaz.  The Virginia Hamilton Conference is pleased to be a forum that brings together renowned national and local writers, illustrators, librarians, teachers, students and scholars and showcases some of the country’s top talents in multicultural literature for youth. The April 3 evening program includes a pasta dinner, a keynote address by the 16th Annual Virginia Hamilton Literary Award winner Christopher Paul Curtis, followed by a performance. Friday, April 4, features a full complement of workshops and keynote addresses by the authors.

Contact the Office of Continuing and Distance Education at (330) 672-3100 or register on-line at http://www.yourtrainingresource.com    (Click Programs, Conference).

For more information visit the conference Web site at http://www.kent.edu/virginiahamiltonconference/index.cfm.

Virginia Hamilton Grant

Virginia Hamilton and Arnold Adoff

Creative Outreach Grant

For Teachers and Librarians

The 7th Annual Virginia Hamilton and Arnold Adoff Creative Outreach Grants for Teachers and Librarians call for proposals is on its way.  Two grants up to $1,000 each will be given. One grant will be given to a teacher and another to a librarian for proposals to develop new classroom or library programs that raise awareness of multicultural literature among young people, particularly but not exclusively, through the works of Virginia Hamilton. The application deadline is February 28, 2012.  For complete instructions and proposal guidelines, see the application available on the conference Web site: http://virginiahamilton.slis.kent.edu/awards.html.

Please complete and submit the application form along with your proposal. Librarians and teachers should send their application form and proposal to Dr. Meghan Harper (sharper1@kent.edu), Virginia Hamilton and Arnold Adoff Creative Outreach Grant, School of Library and Information Science, P.O. Box 5190, 314 Library, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio 44242.  Grant recipients will be announced at the Virginia Hamilton Conference on Multicultural Literature for Youth on Friday, April 13, 2012, at the Kent State Student Center.

The 28th Annual Virginia Hamilton Conference on Multicultural Literature for Youth is scheduled for April 12 and 13, 2012, at the Kent State University Student Center. The conference provides a forum for discussion of multicultural themes and issues in literature for children and young adults. “Celebrating Diversity: Sharing Our Stories” is the theme for this year’s conference, which will feature the remarkable Alma Flor Ada, the talented Lisa Yee and the amazing illustrator E.B. Lewis.

Marching Womens History: Birthdays

Happy 12 March birthday to Virginia Hamilton and Naomi Shihab Nye

I really needed a smile today. It’s beginning to feel like this world is falling apart and I just wanted a feel good kind of thought. So, I found some really nice things by these wonderful ladies. I hope they make you feel good, too.

Naomi Shihab Nye was born in 1952 to a Palestinian father and American mother. She is a poet most know for her published collections of poems and anthologies.

Virginia Hamilton was a distinguished writer of children’s books. She lived from 1934-2008.


It’s a cool morning here in the heartland. I spent much of the day yesterday, a beautiful, sunny warm day, driving home from the Virginia Hamilton Conference in Kent OH. Kent is to the north and east of me, thus leading me to light snowflakes when the temperatures fell on Friday. It’s cool here in IN today, but thankfully not that cold! I’m meeting a friend later to get our exercise program going full swing. Right now, I have a recap of the Virginia Hamilton Conference.

I remember reading Virginia Hamilton‘s The People Who Could Fly to my children when they were young. She’s always been special to me and I eagerly anticipated this conference.

Opening session: I was impressed that almost half the  audience was PoC, a clear increase from what I saw when I attended several years ago. R. Greg Christie brought this audience of readers of words into his world of reading hues, shading, images and motion.  Pam Munoz Ryan, probably more of my generation, spoke of the difference between growing up with variouss ethnic months and MLK Day and those not having them. She also spoke of growing up within a culture where you ‘celebrate’ being Asian or African or Native hyphenates with the language, food and other cultural elements that you use everyday. Then there were the sessions. First session was pairing books, those that make you blush and those that don’t, as if anyone who reads YA would blush anymore!  So many of the pairings were books by and about Whites that I wanted to go get a refund.

Next session, Laurie Halse Anderson.

I had to do it as most of the sessions were picture books for young children.  I needed to know her take on the need for diversity in literature and how libraries can facilitate this. After all, she is the spokesmouth (her word) for School Library Month.

Her response:  “There are a lot of well meaning white people who just need to be educated.” Even she sees ‘White” as the default setting with terms like ‘multicultural’ and ‘diversity’ indicating an ‘other than’ setting.  I truly appreciated her comments about publishers. Anderson reminded the audience that

art moves culture.

publishing is a business.

A business in fact is run by white people of privilege who may talk the talk but the walk they walk is in protecting the bottom line.

From these amazing comments, we went back to groupie-type questions at this conference on diversity.

Anderson did speak of her passion for history and her preference for historical fiction. Creating characters that would fit the confines of time and place often prove to be a challenge, but the stories of history are important to tell. What I found most interesting were her comments about being up all night, unable to sleep because of the voices she heard.  It reminded me of the years my own daughter spent, wide awake all hours of the night with her feet perched high upon the wall singing country and western tunes, humming with the radio, writing and playing with toys because she couldn’t sleep. I wondered what it was that really kept her awake. I don’t know if she’s able yet to articulate it.

A Lebanese lunch!! I dined with a student who is getting a degree in General Studies (why would anyone allow that to happen??) and will be entering Library School in the summer (did you know it takes a Masters degree to become a Librarian?). Also at the table was a young lady from Japan who will be an instructor in the Education Dept. at Kent State next year. Our discussion on ereaders left us wondering about the ability to download foreign language books and non-western font on ereaders. I had fun exchanging business cards Japanese-style with her!

Jamie Adoff offered reflections by reading from his sooner or later forthcoming novel. He spoke of his work with incarcerated teens through Project Jericho and the hope and inspiration he’s able to provide. I don’t know if we, whether we be authors, teachers, librarians, students, clerks or bus drivers, I don’t think we realize how much influence we can have on others just by doing some little thing that shows we care. I bought two of Jamie’s books at the conference.

I saw huge shortcomings at this conference, this confence on diversity that was so well attended by PoC of Asian, African, Latino and Native heritage. Where were their books and authors? It’s possible there were Iranian and Indian and Chinese books in the session I didn’t attend, but I can tell you I didn’t see them!  Was the default assuming ‘diversity’ included them, too and imaging the world Anderson would one day exist in fact already did?  Can we really afford to make these assumptions when the doors are barely cracked open? I did keep my mind open and attended sessions and presentations to the end. I can say that  I got a lot from the individuals who were there.

Christie: “Sometimes I feel like I’m painting for a different generation that isn’t here yet.”

Anderson: “White people don’t know how white they are.”

Anderson: “Firing school librarians is censuring information.”

Christie “I keep learning to improve my craft.”

Virginia Hamilton: “We must reflect movement and all possiblities of minds at the library.”

Edi “What you put into it affects what you get out of it. Be sure to put in some positive.”

upcoming diversity conferences:

Diversity Literature and Teens: Beyond Intentions

National Diversity in Libraries Conference