Sunday, September 28, 2014

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams Garcia

Cover image for One crazy summerDelphine and her two sisters, Vonetta and Fern, hardly know their mother since she left the family soon after Fern was born.  Their father decides that it is time for the girls to spend some time with her, so they fly from Brooklyn to California.  Their mother, Cecile, is not at all interested in seeing the girls, let alone acting like a parent.  She sends them to the Chinese take out for dinner, and to the Black Panther run community center for a free breakfast. At the community center the girls learn about Black Panther leaders and ideals.  As they come to understand what the Black Panthers are trying to do they build a tenuous relationship with their mother who is a civil rights activist and poet.

This book won a boat load of awards when it was published in 2011. I heard the author speak at the ALSC Institute in Oakland last week.  It was fun to read the book, while in Oakland where the story takes place, and right after hearing the author speak.  It is a well written book and the characters are authentic and interesting.  The girls are plucky but not perfect, and the relationship with the mother is complicated. I am glad that Ms Garcia resists the temptation to write a fairytale-like reconciliation between the girls and their mother at the end. They get to know each other a little better, but that is all.  It was an interesting glimpse into a very foreign (to me) time and culture. (218 p)

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