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Review of The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage

alko_case for lovingThe Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage
by Selina Alko; illus. by 
Sean Qualls and Selina Alko
Primary   Levine/Scholastic   32 pp.
1/15   978-0-545-47853-3   $18.99

The 1967 Supreme Court case that legalized interracial marriage throughout the country is here given a picture-book accounting. Richard Loving was white, Mildred Jeter’s skin was a “creamy caramel”; despite their different racial backgrounds, they fell in love and married, only to be arrested for miscegenation when they returned to their Virginia hometown after the wedding. It’s a story about adults and with potentially much legalese, but Alko does a mostly admirable job of shaping the love story and the legal proceedings for a young audience. There is, however, a haziness about skin color and racial identity throughout the book that can be unclear, with lyrical references to “people of every shade” bumping confusingly with “colored,” and “black”; meanwhile, the term “interracial marriage” is used but not defined. While the book is honest about the obstacles the Lovings faced, its message and tone are optimistic, the feel-good atmosphere reinforced by the pencil, paint, and collage illustrations by Alko and Qualls (themselves partners in an interracial marriage). With soft, worn shades providing a gently old-timey aura, even a scene like the police busting in on the sleeping couple is sufficiently dramatic without being frightening. Frequent festoons of hearts and flowers, nice but overly decorative, help, too. Sources and a suggested reading list are appended.

From the May/June 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.

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Comments

  1. Curious. The review says Loving was white but doesn’t say anything about Jeter other than her skin color. Roger–what was the reason for that? The book says “part African-American, part Cherokee.”

    For those interested in knowing more about her identity, I did a detailed post about it:
    http://americanindiansinchildrensliterature.blogspot.com/2015/03/the-case-for-loving-by-selina-alko-and.html

  2. Roger Sutton Roger Sutton says:

    I guess I don’t understand the question. I identify the two protagonists by their different colors as stated by the text. But I did find your blog post about the book fascinating.

  3. Hi Roger,
    Thanks. Digging into that case was unendingly fascinating as I worked on my post.

    Re my question about terms used in the HB review, I think my confusion is because we’re looking at two different pages. You noted what you read on the page that says: “Richard was white: a fair-skinned boy who got quickly sunburned in July. Mildred was what they called “colored” in those days: her skin a creamy caramel”

    And I was looking at the page that says: “Richard was a good, caring man; he didn’t see differences. There was one person Richard loved more than the rest. Mildred Jeter was part African-American, part Cherokee…”

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