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Young Virginia, named for her grandfather’s home state, was one of these children listening at her mother’s and father’s knees. “My mother said that her father sat his ten children down every year and said, ‘I’m going to tell you how I escaped from slavery, so slavery will never happen to you,”’ the author related in a telephone interview. She added that she traces her own interest in literature to the fact that her parents were “storytellers and unusually fine storytellers, and realized, although I don’t know how consciously, that they were passing along heritage and culture and a pride in their history.”

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