Justice and Her Brothers Critical Context - Essay

Virginia Hamilton

Critical Context

Virginia Hamilton’s career began in 1967, and since then she has written numerous books and won the Newbery Medal for M. C. Higgins, the Great (1974). Her work draws on a variety of African American experiences and spans a range of genres; in addition to novels and fiction for children, she has written biographies of W. E. B. Du Bois, Paul Robeson, and the fugitive slave Anthony Burns, and she has also published several volumes retelling folktales and myths. Justice and Her Brothers has two sequels, Dustland (1980) and The Gathering (1981), both of which have a more extensive future setting, a world of dust caused by the depletion of rain forests and nuclear catastrophe. The Gathering concludes with the children’s power gone for the moment but all of them more mature and Thomas free of both his aggression and his stutter. The three novels together (known as the Justice Cycle) belong both to the tradition of children’s literature in which supernatural powers lead to maturity and responsibility and to the science-fiction literature of dystopia (oppressive future societies). The Justice Cycle has significance outside the genre of children’s literature because Hamilton is one of the few African Americans writing science fiction.