Esther Storrie's Reviews > One Crazy Summer

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
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's review
Mar 07, 12

it was amazing
bookshelves: african-american-literature

One Crazy Summer by Rita Garcia-Williams was published in 2010 and won the Coretta Scott King Author award in 2011. Set in Oakland, California in the summer of 1968, the book tells the story of 11 year-old Delphine’s trip with her two younger sisters to visit the mother that left them years before. Their poet-mother, Cecile, is not at all interested in the girls, and instead is totally focused on her writing. She sends them each morning to a Black Panthers “day camp”, where they are fed and watched over during the day. Slowly, they become a part of the Black Panther protests as they discover that there is more to the movement than their father and grandmother at home understand.

To me, this book was wonderfully rich and layered with fascinating characters and settings. Each of the girls, Dephine, Vonetta, and Fern, is vividly portrayed, and the raucous setting of the San Francisco Bay Area in the summer of ’68 is expertly filtered through the girls’ eyes. I particularly liked the way the book peels back the surface layer of the Black Panther Party to reveal the lives of the children affected by the movement.

In the classroom, this book would be an excellent literary study, as well as providing curricular links to a study of the 1960’s. The historical context of the book includes Black Panther founder Huey Newton’s arrest and the shooting death of Bobby Hutton. In particular, the book provides a much more nuanced portrayal of the Black Panther Party than is typical. Beyond the radical and (sometimes) violent statements of Black Power, the Panthers in this book provide food for the hungry and help black children learn to love themselves. The novel would provide a good springboard for a study of the movement, along with other protest movements of the 60’s. From a literary perspective, the book provides an excellent study of character development. The characters have such distinct personalities, and they undergo subtle, but profound changes as the summer progresses.

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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Bethany (new) - added it

Bethany Hi Esther,
I read this book after our first class, and completely agree with your evaluation. I really appreciate the way that Williams-Garcia presents the Black Panther movement and the children's relationship with their mother in one way at the beginning of the book (largely colored by the way that the girls' father and grandmother have viewed the Black Panthers and Cecile), and then allows the girls (and the readers following their story) to experience a gradual evolution in their thinking as their summer experiences reveal the complex nuances behind those initial judgments. The book really encourages readers to look beyond what they have been told from one perspective (such as a news report or a family member's comments) and examine the multiple layers that create the people and situations in our lives.
As you mention, I think the book could be used to support historical studies, in addition to work around authors' craft.

message 2: by Katy (new)

Katy Your description of One Crazy Summer digs deep into the multiple perspectives of the characters in this book. I do not know a lot about the Black Panther Party, but I do know that they are, much of the time, seen in a negative light. Many of these perceptions are because of ignorance and it sounds like this book would portrays the Black Panthers and this time in history authentically.

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