A Little Love Critical Context - Essay

Virginia Hamilton

Critical Context

Virginia Hamilton has written a number of acclaimed works—novels, short stories, and biographies—that enjoy places of eminence in the canon of juvenile and young adult literature. In 1974, she became the first author to win both the Newbery Medal and the National Book Award for the same book, M. C. Higgins, the Great. It is unfortunate that A Little Love has not been as well received as Hamilton’s other works. It contains not only a model of survival from which young female readers will benefit but also a powerful example of an intergenerational relationship in Sheema and her supportive grandparents. For this reason alone, it deserves to be on supplemental reading lists for juvenile and young adult readers.

This book may also prove interesting to young adult and adolescent readers because of the dynamic dialogue of the book’s diverse characters. There is no single black dialect, as some people mistakenly believe; there are many. Hamilton has deftly preserved a record of the dialect of African American youths living in the Midwest. In the authentic voices of Sheema’s grandparents, the richness of the dialect of a previous generation is preserved. Finally, the vibrant differences between these two dialectical versions of black speech are further defined when contrasted to the language of African Americans in the Deep South.