Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter just want to hold hands without drawing stares, be married and raise their children in their home state of Virginia. “What is so difficult about that?” Richard asks in Loving vs. Virginia, Patricia Hruby Powell’s novel about the real-life couple’s groundbreaking civil rights case. Told in free verse, it alternates between the voices of Mildred, who is black and Native American, and Richard, who is white.
Their story opens in 1952, when the two youths and their families shared meals in Central Point, a rural town that was more integrated than the rest of the state of Virginia, where miscegenation laws still ruled. While Mildred and Richard’s affection for one another came easily, their courtship met with racism. And when pregnancy prompted the pair to marry in 1958, they were forced to drive to Washington, D.C., where they could be legally wed.
After returning to Virginia, the newlyweds were arrested and sentenced to expulsion from Virginia for 25 years. The heartfelt novel describes the sadness, fear and prejudice that invaded their lives until their case went before the Supreme Court and was overturned unanimously in 1967.
Interspersed period photographs, quotes and historical facts add greater impact to the Lovings’ personal story and legal challenges, which paved the way for interracial marriage throughout the country. Above all, the Lovings live up to their name as Powell describes their romance and dedication as much as their role in history.