Talley and Didi are friends despite their differences: Talley is black and Didi is white. Didi is involved in a romance; Talley has no need for a boyfriend and all of the complications he might bring to her life. She is content to cook for her father, study for school, and run with her friend. Then David, a handsome white boy, enters her life, and Talley's thoughts change. However, Talley discovers that there are many challenges to her relationship with David, not the least of which is that David is dealing drugs.
Power is a theme, which seems to underlie much of the action of the novel. In each relationship, power resides with one member of the pair. Who has the power in each of the following relationships: Didi and Talley? Didi and Roady? Talley and her father? Talley and David? Does the balance of power shift during the novel? If so, how does the power shift from one person to the other? What do you learn about power, about the negative side of power, about acting powerful, about being under someone's power?
Although there is some external conflict (e.g., the conflict between the two races at the newly integrated school Talley attends), much of the conflict resides within Talley. She is torn between her feelings for her father and her friends, and her emerging attraction for David. How does Talley rationalize her involvement with David? How does she make excuses for his drug dealing? When can Talley no longer delude herself about the true nature of her relationship with David?
This novel was written over a decade ago. What has changed during that time? Is this story still realistic today? Note the references in the story, which date its setting. Without those references, could you tell when the book was written? What does it mean about human nature that so much of the book remains true today?
Talley is "always freer in her head than she was for real" (p.19). She seems to always be "on the lookout for trouble in her life" (p.13). These two quotes from the beginning of the story give readers instant insight into her character. What can we tell about Talley from the first chapter of the novel? What clues does Hamilton give about her character in the following passages:
"everyone carries" p. 32
Talley's dream about the bats p. 59
"She wished not to think about color.
There was no way not to." p. 91
On pages 44-45 Talley describes Roady. How does this description fit with her earlier observations of him in the bedroom?
- What is the significance of the title, A White Romance? Identify the literal and the symbolic meaning of the title by tracing the references to the title found on the following pages: 14, 17, 28, 35, 47–8, 57–8, 72, 100, 178.
- Prejudice plays an important role in the novel. Nearly every character sees issues in terms of black and white, and makes some judgments in terms of a person's color. What is the difference between prejudice (prejudging someone based upon the color of his or her skin) and racism? Which, if any, of the characters in the novel is a racist?
- While color appears to be important to this novel, how different would Talley be if she were white? How different would Didi be if she were black? Are Talley and Didi more alike or more different? What things other than color shape how a person views the world and acts in the world?
Other books to compare and contrast
Fallen Angels, by Walter Dean Myers
Bat 6, by Virginia Euwer Wolff
Make Lemonade, by Virginia Euwer Wolff
About the author
Virginia Hamilton is the winner of the Newbery Medal, two Newbery Honor Medals, numerous Coretta Scott King Awards, and the Hans Christian Andersen and Laura Ingalls Wilder Medals for her lifetime of distinguished contributions to literature for children and young adults. Her works span various genres including science fiction and fantasy, folk literature, and realistic fiction. She is married to award-winning poet and anthologist Arnold Adoff, and lives in Ohio.
Discussion guide written by Kylene Beers, Lecturer, Department of Library Science, Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, Texas.