Zeely (Virginia Hamilton)


Elizabeth and her brother John are sent off for a summer of adventure down to their uncle's house in "the country." They aren't even settled into the house before Elizabeth (who has renamed herself Geeder and her brother Toeboy) becomes obsessed with a neighbor named Zeely Tayber.

Zeely Tayber is the tallest, most richly dark, beautiful, most regal lady Geeder has ever seen. She appears to float instead of walking, she has a supernatural ability with the farm animals, and above all Zeely Tayber is nothing like the other women in town.

When Geeder comes across a photograph in an article about the Watutsi, an ancient African tribe known for their height, she is convinced that Zeely is a Watutsi queen.

By the end of their adventures together, Geeder realizes that Zeely Tayber is very much a queen after all.

I had not read Virginia Hamilton before Zeely, yet for some reason (possibly their collective inclusion on certain reading lists), I had equated her style with Zora Neal Hurston and perhaps even a hint of Maya Angelou. Going into this book with that expectation left me deeply disappointed in Hamilton's prose. Dry, choppy, and free of emotion, Zeely couldn't be farther from what I expected.