Loving vs. Virginia: A Documentary Novel of the Landmark Civil Rights Case

Book review by
Lucinda Dyer, Common Sense Media
Loving vs. Virginia: A Documentary Novel of the Landmark Civil Rights Case Book Poster Image
Powerful true tale of mixed-race couple's fight for justice.

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 1 review

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

In addition to the remarkable story of the Lovings and their place in Civil Rights history, illustrated pages are interspersed throughout the book that highlight some of the most important events of this period: Brown vs Board of Education, the Freedom Riders, black teens integrating schools in the South, Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter From a Birmingham Jail" and "I Have a Dream" speech. 

Positive Messages

Never give up when confronted by injustice.

Positive Role Models & Representations

On the surface, Richard and Mildred — high school dropouts from a small town — might seem unlikely heroes of the Civil Rights Movement. But when faced with prejudice and injustice, they didn't back down. They dated openly and then married at a time when interracial couples were routinely harassed or even attacked. They didn't see black or white when it came to friends or who they would love. Quietly and with great dignity, they went forward with their lives and when given the chance to change history, they didn't hesitate. 


The threat of violence is a constant in Loving vs. Virginia. From their childhoods through to their adult lives, a racist local sheriff was an ominous presence in the county in which they lived, always on the lookout for any reason to stop, harass or arrest African-Americans. 


Although Mildred became pregnant in high school and married Richard while pregnant with their second child, nothing beyond a few kisses is described in the book.


The "N" word is used and Mildred is described as "a piece of colored ass."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Richard and a few friends drink moonshine from a local still.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Patricia Hruby Powell's Loving vs. Virginia: A Documentary Novel of the Landmark Civil Rights Case is the true story of Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving, a young couple whose fight to make their interracial marriage legal led to a historic 1967 Supreme Court ruling. Written in free verse, the story is alternately told by Mildred and Richard and follows them from their meeting as children in a rural Virginia town to the months after the Supreme Court found unanimously in their favor. Two-thousand-seventeen marks the 50th anniversary of this landmark ruling, and the book offers a riveting and deeply personal window into a chapter of the civil rights movement that's sometimes overlooked. The story was chronicled in the feature film Loving, released in 2016. Powell is the author of Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker, a Robert F. Silbert Honor Book and one of the Wall Street Journal's "10 Best Children's Books of 2014."


User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byRedQueen-Ravenc... June 22, 2019
The wonderful and poignant story of the landmark supreme court case, Loving vs. Virginia, that legalized interracial marriage. The novel is written in free vers... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byoxyjin December 31, 2017

What's the story?

LOVING VS. VIRGINIA tells the story of the interracial couple behind one of the landmark legal cases of the civil rights movement. Mildred Jeter, who was African-American, and Richard Loving, who was white, grew up in a small town in rural Virginia, in a neighborhood where whites and blacks often mixed socially but still attended segregated schools. Mildred was the sister of one of  Richard's friends and when she was a freshman in high school they began dating. When Mildred became pregnant with their second child, the couple decided to marry. While they had the blessing of both families, marriage between the races was illegal in Virginia in 1958, so the couple married legally in nearby Washington D.C. They returned to their hometown wanting nothing more than to raise their children near family and friends, but only five weeks later, they were arrested by the local sheriff. Tried and convicted, their sentence was suspended if they would promise not to return together to Virginia for 25 years. Leaving the life they treasured behind, they moved to the relative safety of Washington, D.C. In 1963, Mildred wrote to Attorney General Robert Kennedy, told him their story, and asked for his help. Kennedy's office referred her to the ACLU, which agreed to represent them in the extraordinary case that would take the Lovings all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Is it any good?

Compelling and heartrending, this true story personalizes the civil rights movement in a way that will make readers who know little about that era eager to learn more. Author Patricia Hruby Powell's use of free verse lets the Lovings tell their story -- from growing up in a neighborhood where "Indians, Negroes, Whites -- all mixed" to dates at the local drive-in "cause no one can see us" to the day Mildred writes "Mama watches me go off with the white men. Get in their car. Go to jail" -- in a simple, accessible way that creates a real intimacy between the reader and the Lovings. The archival photos and Shandra Strickland's illustrations help bring both the time and their story to life.  

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the story told in Loving vs. Virginia changed marriage in America. Did it shock you that only 50 years ago, marrying someone of a different race could mean being arrested and sentenced to jail? Why do you think so many people were opposed to interracial marriage? 

  • How do you think interracial couples are portrayed on TV and in the movies — as if it doesn't matter or as something people still comment upon? 

  • What's the greatest injustice you see in your school or community? Is anyone stepping forward to try and change it?

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