This summer I plunged into One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia. Its attractive cover will definitely entice Middle Grade readers, as well as Young Adult readers to discover a crazy summer in Oakland, California in 1968. The novel begins with Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern, threes sisters on their way to Oakland in pursuit of their mother that left them behind. Their meeting with Cecile, their mother, alias Nzila, will lead the girls to more than who their mother is but to a better understanding of the fight for Civil Rights.
One Crazy Summer explores everyday life in the sixties, while depicting another aspect of the Black Panthers’ movement. It’s a touching and informative lesson in Black History. The story means even more since it’s being told through the eyes of Delphine, the oldest sister who is eleven years old and responsible for everything. She is terribly veracious in recounting the story and her personal feelings. You will feel attached and supportive of her. Vonetta is the middle sister and she loves to be seen, while Fern is the youngest and follows her two big sisters and looks to them for solace.
Rita Williams-Garcia won four major awards – the Scott O’Dell Awards for Historical Fiction, the Newberry Honor Award, the Coretta Scott King Award, and was a National Book Award Finalist for One Crazy Summer along with many other literary distinctions. The book is a lovely edition which contains Williams-Garcia’s acceptance speech for the Coretta Scott King award, a deleted chapter, and activities that could be used in schools to study this novel more in-depth. Well worth the read and full of wonderful ideas for teachers that want to teach more African-American history. I rated One Crazy Summer 4 stars on Goodreads. I’m very interested in discovering more of Rita Williams-Garcia’s work. Some of her other titles include Blue Tights, Every Time a Rainbow Dies, Fast talk on a Slow Track, Jumped, Like sisters on the Homefront, and No Laughter Here. This book seems to be a tribute to the children who lived through the vociferous times of the sixties. …” “I had enjoyed my childhood.” In spite of the necessary upheaval going on in the country and the world,….in spite of being reminded that tomorrow was not promised, I enjoyed my childhood. My siblings and I indulged in now-vanishing pastimes. We played hard. Read books. Colored with crayons. Rode bikes. Spoke as children spoke. Dreamed our childish dreams. If our parents did anything for us at all, they gave us a place to be children and kept the adult world in its place-as best as they could. But curious eyes and ears always latch on to something.” (One Crazy Summer, p.3 of Extras – An excerpt from Rita Williams-Garcia’s Acceptance Speech for the Coretta Scott King Author Award for One Crazy Summer)
After her father was discharged from the army, Williams-Garcia and her family moved back to New York where there was a strong presence of the Black Panther Party. The image that she saw of them in her neighborhood didn’t at all equate to the image that was being delineated in the media. She admits openly to members of her family being former Black Panthers and Black Nationalists. Subsequently, this beautifully written story about the Black Panther Party’s handiwork in the black community and three little black girls discovering their mother and their civic duty is one you shouldn’t miss, not to mention it’s perfect for young readers. Click the link below to hear Rita Williams-Garcia speaking sprightly about One Crazy Summer and go to http://www.ritawg.com for more information about her work and her future upcoming events.