Flashback Fridays: Brothers and sisters . . .

You’re a young girl approaching your eleventh birthday, certain that something monumental is going to happen.  And something does, though you don’t understand it all at once.  You find you’re developing powers–powers defy easy explanation.  But you aren’t the only one with these powers . . .

Do you remember:

justice-and-her-brothers1

Justice and Her Brothers by Virginia Hamilton (Scholastic, c1978)

When you speak of diversity, when you speak of influential writers of color who have written and influenced children’s literature,  the work and legacy of Virginia Hamilton must surely be part of the conversation.  She has crafted such a significant wealth of books–many of which are still on the shelves today for new readers to encounter.  Just this past week I read my son The People Could Fly.  But I confess that it was only in the last few years as I did my research on different aspects of children’s literature and speculative fiction that I discovered she’d written the book featured above.

Speculative fiction has an exceedingly poor track record for diversity in middle grade–especially science fiction.  So to realize that there was a science fiction story written back in the seventies by Virginia Hamilton that features a young African American girl and her brothers.  One that touched on the topic of psychic powers?  I was astonished, excited and a little aghast that I hadn’t been aware of this story prior to my discovery.  But then, these have not been in print since the late 1990s, and most libraries lack copies on the shelves.

Justice, her brothers Levi and Thomas and their friend Dorian all discover they have some kind of supersensory powers.  Each one of them has a different perspective on what it means and how to use those powers.  The first book focuses on sibling interactions–how the children relate to each other.  It’s an open ended plot in the first book, given that this is just the first in a trilogy.  The second book is:

Dustland by Virginia Hamilton (Scholastic, c1980)

In this second book, the four characters use the power of their minds to leap ahead to a far flung future of Earth.  A future where three-legged humanoid creatures struggle to find water and a way out of their barren world.  Our time travelers find themselves stuck in this future–struggling to survive and find a way back home once again.  This leads us to the third book:

I’ve seen this cover image with “Justice and Her Brothers” as well. but it makes more sense story-wise as connected to the third book.

The Gathering by Virginia Hamilton (Scholastic, c1981)

The third book puts us into a showdown fight between good and evil as our four protagonists seek to protect their world from a malevolent force.  The four travel back to Dustland to save their friends there and defeat the evil Mal.  I’ll admit I haven’t yet acquired the series to read through the entire trilogy, but I have it on my list.

Now, from what I’ve read from others, this trilogy of Hamilton’s isn’t without flaws and certainly reading science fiction stories from several decades ago can change a reader’s perception of the work.  The shelf-life of science fiction is often fairly short.

Fortunately, these books are available via ebook  from Open Roads Media for those interested.  So it is possible to obtain copies to read.  That said, without having these books available on the shelves where young people might encounter them to pick up and read I doubt many young people will ever encounter them.

You can check out Virginia Hamilton’s website here.  Her writing and her legacy are well worth knowing about!

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About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on January 17, 2016, in Flashback Fridays and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I’ve never heard of these, either – intriguing!

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