“The Sun is Also a Star” by Nicola Yoon

What a perfect cast for a love story! Natasha, 17, is slated to be deported from New York City with her family, back to Jamaica. Daniel’s parents immigrated from Korea and had their children in the U.S. They run an African American hair supply store. Despite the injustice and weirdness of this, it turns out that most black hair and beauty stores are owned and run by people from South Korea.

“The Sun is Also A Star” (Delacorte 2016) by Nicola Yoon is told in the alternating voices of romantic Daniel and Natasha who thinks like a scientist. Daniel, the poet, sees Natasha on the street, not at his parents’ shop because she wears her hair in a huge Afro. Whereas Natasha is precise and reasons empirically, she’s also sensual. When she listens to her music she is transported. When she eats Korean food for the first time (with Daniel), she’s close to ecstasy.

When they meet, Daniel is making his way uptown to talk to a Yale admittance interviewer—only because his family expects him to become a doctor. Natasha is on her way uptown in a last ditch attempt to rescue her family by talking to a reputedly stellar immigration attorney.

Daniel professes his love at first sight, but Natasha is a hard sell. However, she agrees to walk along with him. The two could not be more charming as they get to know each other—she keeping secrets and he wearing his heart on his shoulder. Natasha meets Daniel’s über-strict Korean father and cruel older brother, Charlie, who has just been kicked out of Harvard. Daniel is delivering the bag of money his mother has entrusted to him. The entire story, except for an epilogue, takes place in one day. And you might read this 350-page book in one day. Do not assume that it will resolve in a Hollywood ending.

Daniel oftentimes subtitles his sections, as if it were a news report: “Local Teen Accepts Destiny to become Doctor, Stereotype.” The cadence he gives his mother’s speech over brother Charlie’s shame makes us hear her and know her. “Why you grades so bad? They kick you out? Why they kick you out? Why not make you stay and study more?”

Or Natasha, quoting her mother: “You no think is time for you to give up now, ‘Tasha? You no think that what you doing is futile?”

        The alternating voices of the couple are interrupted by narrations of a character they’ve met during the day and with little histories—such as why South Koreans dominate African American beauty supply stores. Starting in the 1960s and ever since, straight black Korean hair wigs were extremely popular. At the time, the US government banned the import of wigs containing hair from China. So South Koreans had the monopoly. And the wig business evolved into general hair care business.

The story of opposite personalities falling in love sounds like a cliché, but it feels new in Yoon’s hands. No wonder it’s a best seller.


Patricia Hruby Powell’s young adult documentary novel Loving vs. Virginia released 1/31/17. You’re invited to the Book Lunch Party 2/16/17 at 5:00 pm at the Esquire. talesforallages.com

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“The Passion of Dolssa” by Julie Berry

“The Passion of Dolssa” (Viking 2016) by Julie Berry is certainly an oddity in the world of young adult literature—and what a terrific oddity.

The subject matter will not be found in many U.S. high school curriculums. Set in 13th century Provence or Provensa, as it was called at the time, the story centers around 18 year old Dolssa, a Catholic mystic, born in the waning years of the crusades to a prosperous wine merchant. This was also the dawn of the Inquisitions that are best know for the later Spanish Inquisition of the 15th century.

Just as important as Dolssa (or more so) is 17 year old Botille the aspiring matchmaker, along with her two sisters, beautiful older Plazensa who dabbles in prostitution, and Sazia, younger, who tells fortunes. When their parents died some years back, they’d become petty thieves, but since, had moved to the seaside village of Baja and opened a successful tavern.

The early chapters are Dolssa’s testimony as recorded by Father Lucien of the Cloistered Fathers in Tolosa (Toulouse). She speaks of her beloved Jhesus who she claims visits her and directs her actions—which many in Tolosa see as miracles of healing. However, Father Lucien condemns Dolssa as a heretic. When she will not renounce her “beloved” she is sentenced to burn at the stake.

Where as Dolssa’s sympathetic mother is not as fortunate as her daughter, Dolssa escapes her execution. She is wandering the countryside close to death, when Botille, while traveling with her sister Sazia and neighbor men on a village errand, saves her. Sazia predicts that Dolssa will bring Botille only pain. But spunky clever Botille cannot turn the suffering young woman away. They bring her to Baja and begin nursing her back to health.

Father Lucien and the Knight of Tolosa are searching for Dolssa under the orders of the archbishop who must rid the Catholic world of the devil—that is—“heretics” such as Dolssa. We learn that the Crusade, that recently swept through the area of what is now southern France, was a bloody purge and the Inquisition is the next step of the church’s attempted control of its faithful. The reader sees how an oppressive force works one neighbor against another. Betray a friend to save one’s own family.

The cast of nuanced characters is listed in the back, as is a copious author note that further describes this little known moment of history, which is reminiscent of the Salem witch hunts, as well as a precursor to how the Nazi regime gained control of the German population.

This is every bit an adult book as well as a young adult read. It’s exquisite.


Patricia Hruby Powell’s young adult documentary novel Loving vs. Virginia releases 1/31/17. You’re invited to the Book Lunch Party 2/16/17 at 5:00 pm at the Esquire. talesforallages.com

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Third and Final Loving vs. Virginia Give Away

And the third and final Give Away, goes to [drum roll] NikolaBooks. Congratulations, Nikola. Nikola, please email me at note to phpowell@talesforallages.com and let me know if you simply want it signed, or signed to you or . . . what.

The second give away went to Nancy (still waiting for you to respond, Nancy :-). The first to Deb Aronson. Thank you so much, everyone, for entering. If you did not win a copy of the book, I do hope you will still pre-order Loving vs. Virginia, which releases on January 31, 2017.

That can be done at the following Links: http://www.chroniclebooks.com/titles/loving-vs-virginia.html

or at http://www.janeaddamsbooks.com/

Or anywhere you buy books.

Or come to the Book Launch Party in Champaign, IL at the Esquire Lounge (106 N. Walnut Champaign) Thursday, February 16, 2017 from 5:00 – 8:00 pm. Jane Addams Books will be selling the books; Robin Kearton and Tom Faux will play string music (because Mildred’s family played what they called “hill billy” music as a string band). The Esquire will be serving (along with their complete menu) Brunswick stew which is a traditional Virginia dish. Come, have a beer, listen to a brief reading, listen to the music, get a book (not required) and have a good time.

Or come Friday, March 3 to the Urbana Free Library celebration, 6 – 8 pm, where Loving vs. Virginia and I will be part of the new Urbana Imbibes events.

HornBook (January/February 2017) wrote a lovely review and added my answer to their question: Why did you choose to write the Lovings’ story as a “documentary novel”?

Patricia: I had begun Loving vs. Virginia as nonfiction. But my editor, Melissa Manlove, and I

this was once Byrd’s corner store where the Jeters and Lovings shopped for groceries

felt that the story would be more poignant to young readers to show scenes of Mildred dancing and Richard looking on at a neighborhood party rather than just saying: Indians, blacks and whites worked together, partied together—lived well together in an integrated neighborhood—in a segregated state. I could show the two falling in love and running through the woods at night. I could show Sheriff Garnet stopping Richard’s car and saying about Mildred, “Who you got in there?” rather than saying the racist sheriff stopped black people driving along the Sparta Road to intimidate them. Mildred and Richard are both deceased but I spoke to Mildred’s brothers and Richard’s friends and used their stories about the couple, but in a documentary novel, I could create dialog that can draw the reader into the emotional heart of the story. By studying Hope Ryden’s film footage of the Loving family in the 1960s, I got to know the two, and speak in their voices.

Thanks for supporting Loving vs. Virginia. And Have a Happy New Year.

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“March: Book Three” by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell

U.S. Congressman John Lewis from Georgia was having a meeting with his 2008 re-election committee, when staff member, Andrew Aydin, mentioned he was on his way to a comic book convention. When other committee members teased Aydin, Lewis remembered that in 1958, at 18, he’d read the comic “The Montgomery Story,” about Martin Luther King Jr. and his nonviolent movement. This had inspired John Lewis to nonviolent action. He used the comic as the model to organize his first sit-ins.


Not terribly long after that 2008 meeting, Aydin convinced Congressman Lewis to write the “March” trilogy. Book One tells of Lewis’s origins as a sharecropper’s son from Georgia and the lunch counter sit-ins of 1959 and 1960. (I reviewed it in January of 2014). Book Two covers the sit-ins and the Freedom Riders.


“March: Book Three” (Top Shelf Production 2016) by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, and illustrated by Nate Powell is the final volume of the graphic novel trilogy. And the National Book Award Winner for Young Readers of 2016. It spotlights the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL; Freedom Summer, the 1964 Democratic National Convention, as well as the Selma to Montgomery marches. Everyone should read this nonfiction trilogy of graphic novels.


As the president of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and a board member of Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), young John Lewis was a pivotal figure in the Civil Rights Movement of the early sixties. He illuminates the tensions and factions within the movement. We’re introduced to Fannie Lou Hamer, Malcolm X, and of course Martin Luther King Jr. and many others. We see these historic figures as three dimensional, emotional beings in both the text and the wonderfully-wrought black and white wash drawings.


We see Fannie Lou Hamer, the woman from Mississippi, who co-founded the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, in her unsuccessful attempt to be seated as a black Mississippi delegate for the presidential election of 1964. To that purpose she is depicted in a televised appearance addressing the Democratic National Convention’s Credentials Committee, which presidential candidate Lyndon B. Johnson interrupts with his own press conference in order to distract viewers and voters from the rift in the party. The book is not altogether clear on that, but like any nonfiction book, the reader can look up information to clarify and find out more.


Getting books like this one into the hands of young adults might help keep us from backsliding into a darker more contentious history in the upcoming years. Let’s not allow history to repeat itself.


Patricia Hruby Powell’s young adult documentary novel Loving vs. Virginia releases 1/31/17. You’re invited to the Book Lunch Party 2/16/17 at 5:00 pm at the Esquire. talesforallages.com

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“Ghost” by Jason Reynolds

His name is Castle Crenshaw, but he calls himself Ghost. He’s been running ever since his drunk father came after him and 28954126his mother with a gun, aiming to kill, in the book, “Ghost” (Atheneum 2016), by Jason Reynolds. So now Ghost lives with his mom, his dad’s in jail, and Ghost is running from himself, getting into trouble at school until his crazy fast running takes him through the track field where Coach spots him.


Coach has a passion for helping troubled kids who have track talent. He was an Olympic Medalist, himself, until he screwed up by taking drugs. He doesn’t want this to happen to Lu, Patina, Sunny. Or Ghost. All these kids are troubled. All are terrific characters—both male and female—on this city team.


But can Ghost stay the game? He sure messes up a lot and Coach doesn’t tolerate that. Ghost has natural talent, but he needs training and Coach is the guy to train him. The team is aiming for a shot at the Junior Olympics. In order to get his “newbies” to bond, Coach takes them out for Chinese food. Before they can dig in, they must each tell a secret about themselves. I wish I could tell their secrets, but that would be a super-spoiler. But you know Ghost’s because it starts the story. And having told the others, he’s part of something. They’ve bonded. Ghost says, “Like I was there—really, really there—as me, but without as much scream inside.”


The characters are authentic. The story is authentic. This book really needs to be put in the hands of thousands of young readers. Whereas Ghost is a middle school student, older kids will enjoy this gritty, emotionally honest book. And it’s a fast read at only 180 pages. It’s already a best seller, was a finalist for the National Book Award, and just won the 2017 Charlotte Huck Award from the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). Reynolds is the man of the moment, an African American man writing from in his culture.


I had the honor of being a panelist alongside Jason at the NCTE Conference last month in Atlanta. He said something like, “It means the world to me to share stories about people and families and neighborhoods that not everyone knows, or even considers. My job is to try to peel away some of the layers and walls to expose the humanness and the connectivity in us all.”


And he’s doing that so well.


Patricia Hruby Powell is the author of Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker. Her young adult documentary novel Loving vs. Virginia releases in January 2017. talesforallages.com

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Second Loving vs. Virginia Giveaway – Thanksgiving

loving-movieLoving, the movie, is spectacular. The actors were cast to look just like the characters they portray. What’s more, the essence of each character is true, with few exceptions, to my mind.


Mildred Jeter & Richard Loving photo by Grey Villet, 1964


Ruth Negga & Joel Edgerton in Loving movie

Joel Edgerton looks so much like Richard Loving I don’t mind that he looked more 40+ than 24, as Richard Loving was at the onset of the story, and when the couple married in 1958. Edgerton’s acting is superb. Ruth Negga is the essence of Mildred. Sharon Blackwood, playing Lola, Richard’s mother looks just like Lola. From my research, I saw Lola as more supportive of the relationship than the movie depicts, but Hollywood is working to make a dramatic movie, so I can accept that.

I saw the movie at the Art Theater in Champaign, IL, on Wednesday–yesterday–the day before Thanksgiving. It seemed lovingvsvirginacoverlike most viewers were in tears by the end. I was. On Tuesday, (November 29) after the 6:30 pm showing, I’ll talk about my book Loving vs. Virginia. My book, the documentary novel, is different in that it starts in 1952 and shows Mildred and Richard when they meet in their highly integrated neighborhood, their dating as they venture out into the grossly segregated state of Virginia, and follows them, as the movie does, to the 1967 Supreme Court decision. My books is closer to the facts. The movie took liberties with the timeline and a major relationship–I’ll talk about that Tuesday.

Bernie Cohen, Phil Hirshkop with the Lovings - photo by Grey Villet

Bernie Cohen, Phil Hirshkop with the Lovings – photo by Grey Villet

About the lawyers: The young ACLU lawyer, Bernie Cohen (portrayed by Nick Kroll) is depicted to be less intelligent than Phil Hirschkop, but maybe that’s because Phil Hirschkop was slighted in the last (and highly inferior) movie, Mr. and Mrs. Loving (1996) and they wanted to make it up to the real Phil Hirschkop. Both lawyers are men in their 80s now, but

Nick Kroll as Bernie Cohen

Nick Kroll as Bernie Cohen

during the case were so new to the bar only Cohen was qualified to present a case to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1966.

So ask questions. Watch Nancy Buirski’s The Loving Story documentary http://www.hbo.com/documentaries/the-loving-story (which also misses that big relationship).

John Bass as Phil Hirschkop

John Bass as Phil Hirschkop

And for the second Loving vs. Virginia giveaway . . . Goes to Nancy. Congratulations, Nancy. If you signed up as Nancy, please email me at phpowell@talesforallages, give me your address, and I’ll send you a copy of Loving vs. Virginia. And, Everyone, Have a Wonderful Thanksgiving.

Sign up for the blog and leave a comment to be eligible for the final drawing of Loving vs. Virginia in December, a month before it officially releases January 31, 2017. Everyone who has left a comment and signed the blog is still eligible for the final drawing.  http://www.chroniclebooks.com/titles/loving-vs-virginia.html

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“Dare to Disappoint: Growing Up in Turkey” by Özge Samanci

“Dare to Disappoint: Growing Up in Turkey” (Farrar Straus Giroux 2015) by Özge Samanci is an inspiring memoir and a 23310679more-than-charming graphic novel. It follows and eventually answers the universal questions: What do I want? Who am I? What’s more, it reveals another culture—a middle eastern culture, a Muslim land—at a time when seeing and understanding others is more important than ever.


Özge, was born in the mid-70s in the Aegean coastal town of Izmir. When television arrives in the mid 80s there is one channel. Özge sees an underwater Jacques Cousteau special. She’s smitten. She decides she will become a scuba diver. Her father expects “better” from her. She tries. But there are obstacles. In Turkey the school system makes the attainment of education challenging, especially if you’re not wealthy. There are deep conflicts between secularism and fundamentalism—Darwin or Allah? You watch Özge grow up alongside her smarter, more talented big sister who eventually succeeds in becoming a computer scientist—a prestigious field (although she’s not passionate about it). Özge keeps searching, trying, growing, in spite of these hardships.


I love to read stories from outside my culture. You can’t help but compare it to your own. And if you have friends from that other culture, you get to understand and know them better. In this case, you understand why they might be so knowledgeable. In order to get anywhere in the Turkish education system you have to learn how to learn. You must pass tests to get to the next level. Test results also decide to which school you will advance and the quality of teaching you will experience. And you learn about Turkish government and politics. For instance, elementary students in Turkey in the 80s were taught that they should want to die for their former “President” Ataturk, who was actually a dictator (and who died back in 1938).


Özge’s father wants her to be an engineer. She tries, but all she is only advanced into the easier field of mathematics. Easier? you ask. (. . . well, I asked). Can Özge please her father? He’s not easily pleased. She hears his voice in her head. It’s so loud, she can’t hear her own voice. And there’s the noise of all those other voices telling her to be: an engineer, lawyer, doctor. Her friends ask her: What are you good at? What do you love? Nothing nothing nothing. Özge falls into a deep depression. What will she do? She tries acting. And fails.


Then her friends see her school notes where she’s doodled around the coffee drips, fingerprints, and wrinkles. Thank heavens. You should see them too. Samanci’s artwork is sweet, funny, and smart. So is her text.


Because this book is so inspiring, you know you have to give it as a gift!


Patricia Hruby Powell is the author of Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker. Her young adult documentary novel Loving vs. Virginia releases in January 2017. talesforallages.com

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Research for Loving vs. Virginia: a documentary novel

Loving vs. Virginia is an informational book or a “documentary novel.” The story is told in lovingvsvirginacoververse in the voices of Mildred Jeter (African American and Indian) and Richard Loving (white). The couple grew up together, fell in love, married in Washington DC, came home to Virginia in 1958 and were arrested in bed. It’s hard to believe that less than 60 years ago interracial marriage was illegal in half of the United States.


Research included my watching Nancy Biurski’s documentary, The Loving Story, repeatedly. I viewed news clips, studied Hope Ryden’s 1960s film footage of the Lovings, read newspaper and magazine articles contemporary to the times. I read extensively about the convoluted court case that led to the U.S. Supreme Court. I searched for photos and quotes. But, perhaps the most fun, was interviewing the “players” of my story.


Richard's tombstone

Richard’s tombstone

Sadly, both Richard and Mildred Loving are deceased—Mildred in 2008, and Richard only nine years after the U.S. Supreme decision of 1967 which ruled in their favor. But I did speak extensively to Mildred’s brothers Lewis Jeter and to Otha Jeter who still lives in the neighborhood in Caroline County where they all grew up together. Their neighborhood—or section—was remarkably integrated. Blacks, whites, and Indians worked other, partied together, and in some cases, fell in love. This took place in a state, so segregated that State Statistician Walter

Mildred's grave site

Mildred’s grave site

Plecker instated the “Racial Integrity Act,” as a health bulletin (!) declaring that interracial marriage was illegal.


One of my favorite interviews was with Richard’s friend, Ray Green. He and five buddies stood around a pick up truck outside a rural convenience store with my husband and me and chatted about their friends, the Lovings. They told stories, laughed, and gave details that would be the foundation of scenes in my book.

Otha Jeter, Mildred's older brother

Otha Jeter, Mildred’s older brother

Another great part of the research? Remembering how it felt to fall in love. I listened to music that I listened to in my 20s when I was falling in love regularly. My husband and I spoke about falling in love—reminding each other of our stories.


My husband, being a white southern man, had special insight into Richard. Studying Richard in film clips and reading his words from previous interviews was essential in recreating his character. As many note, he looked like the quintessential red-neck—one who would be bigoted. Clearly he was not, and I got to establish that, showing his love and stubbornness.


From the clips, I know Mildred was soft spoken, a gentle mother to their three children,

Mildred Loving about 1967

Mildred Loving in about 1967

and altogether charming. The couple was clearly in love. They did not want to be the center of this important civil rights issue. They just wanted to live their quiet lives together—at home in Caroline County.


Please ask me any questions. I’d be happy to answer them; or make a new blog post about what might be interesting to be known. And please 1)leave a comment and 2)sign up for the posts if you want a free advance copy of Loving vs. Virginia. The second drawing will be just before Thanksgiving. The third, before Christmas.

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“Presenting Buffalo Bill: The Man Who Invented the Wild West” by Candace Fleming

Buffalo Bill, born in Iowa as William Frederick Cody in the mid-1800s was a showman who 25689028would create the perceptions that persist today as the American West. The Codys and their seven children moved west to lawless Kansas. Several children died. Will’s father, Isaac, was hunted by pro-slavery men who vowed to kill him because they mistakenly thought he was an abolitionist. Even before Isaac died, when Will was nine, he scouted the frontier to earn money to support his family.


Author Candace Fleming begins each chapter with an act from what would become Bill Cody’s Wild West show in “Presenting Buffalo Bill: The Man Who Invented the Wild West” (Neal Porter/Roaring Brook 2016). Employing hundreds of Indians, cowboys, with horses, deer, and buffalo, Will Cody (Buffalo Bill) toured the U.S. and Europe, performing immense outdoor programs for millions, including Queen Victoria. His troupe would pitch camp over multiple acres and the audience could visit the cabins and tipis to see how people of the American west lived. Indian women who accompanied their men could sell their beadwork and moccasins.


Bill claimed that each “act” came from his own life—a Pony Express Rider, Scalping Indians, Riding with Wild Bill Hickok. Were his stories truthful? Some were. Fleming gives us sidebars headed “Panning for the Truth,” explaining how she divided truth from fiction. For instance, when Cody claimed to ride with Bill Hickok out west, Hickok was living in Vermont. However, the account of Cody’s sister, Julia, is corroborated by historic documents, so hers is deemed accurate overall.


With all his braggadocio, it’s not always easy to like Buffalo Bill Cody. Scalping Indians? He probably did scalp one man—Yellow Hair. But Cody was also an admirer of Indians. When the U.S. Army asked him to bring in his friend Sitting Bull, who the U.S. Army saw as a threat, he agreed. Against logic, you want him to set Sitting Bull free. But it was too late. Another army official who had a personal grudge against the chief got there first and killed Sitting Bull in a blood bath. Buffalo Bill would have been the better liaison in this matter.


Being in favor of the Indian overall, I feel that Fleming gives Native Americans a fair shake. She describes how the U.S. government went back on its word repeatedly—tragically—all to destroy the Indian population and culture. And what about Bill? An argument contemporary to the time said he should have left the Indians on the reservation. Was he exploiting Native Americans? Fleming shows that Indians of many nations loved Buffalo Bill. He paid them 100 times more than they would have received on the reservation where they were starving. Those who were lucky enough to travel with the show lived their culture in small ways on the road and were not pressed to assimilate into white European culture.


This is too simple a description. I urge you to read the book.



Patricia Hruby Powell is the author of Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker. Her young adult documentary novel Loving vs. Virginia releases in January 2017. talesforallages.com

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First “Loving vs. Virginia” Give Away Winner

lovingvsvirginacoverThank you everyone for signing up for the blog and commenting so you might win my book, Loving vs. Virginia. Remember, you have to comment to get a book, so that I will know if you want one. So, if you haven’t left a comment, and you want a book, you can comment on this post.

img_3916Here is the first of three drawings. If you have signed up and already left a comment you are eligible for two more drawings–one before Thanksgiving, one before Christmas. The book officially releases January 31, 2017. Feel free to pass this on to anyone else. Yep, that would statistically lessen your chances, but you’re spreading . . . good news.p-draw-1

And the Halloween Give Away goes to . . . [drum roll] DEB ARONSON! Congratulations, Deb. Deb lives right in the adjoining town. Urbana to my Champaign. Let’s have lunch together somewhere and I can just sign and hand it to you, Deb. I’m delighted that you won.

p-draw-2Other news: For those from or near Champaign Urbana, The Art Theater will show the acclaimed new movie Loving (about the Loving v Virginia case) on Wednesday, November 23, the day before Thanksgiving. So take a break from stuffing the turkey and come on out. Don’t know the times, yet. If you miss that one, come see the movie Tuesday, November 29 I’ll speak about the Lovings, maybe the case, maybe the book, on the next Tuesday, November 29, following the showing of Loving also at the Art Theater.

Next week I’ll post an article to tell a little about the research I did for Loving vs. Virginia.

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