M.'s Reviews > One Crazy Summer

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
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Aug 27, 2011

really liked it
Read in August, 2011

I really liked this book--stayed up way too late to finish it. It's 1968 and Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern, African American girls, live with their father and grandmother in New York City. Their mother left after Fern was born and now lives in Oakland, CA. Their father decides they need to know their mother and sends them to Oakland where the girls encounter a whole new world. In New York they were strictly raised and carefully monitored; in Oakland, their mother, Cecile (or Nzila,the poet, as she prefers) doesn't want them around, won't allow them in the kitchen, defines dinner as Chinese take-out eaten while sitting on the living room floor, and ignores any mention of the strange visitors in black berets who knock on her front door at night. To keep the girls out of her house she sends them to the local Black Panther community center for their breakfasts and for summer camp.

Delphine, age 11, has taken over the mother role for her younger sisters and she works hard to buffer the relationship between the girls and Cecile. She also wants them (and herself) to have a real California experience so they'll have something to write about when school starts again in NYC and they're confronted with the inevitable essay on "What I Did Last Summer." She carefully gets some money together to take the three of them to San Francisco on the bus, explore Chinatown, etc., never thinking that spending a month at a Black Panther summer camp qualifies as unusual. Little by little all three girls learm a lot more about who they are and what they want out of life, as does Cecile.
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