Sunday, April 1, 2012

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

Genre: Historical fiction, middle grade
Pages: 218
Rating: ***
Delphine and her sisters live in Brooklyn until they're shipped three thousand miles to spend the summer with their mother. Cecile ran off to Oakland seven years ago, changed her name to Nzila, and devoted her life to political poetry. Now they're expected to coexist in a green stucco house with the neighborhood's only palm tree out front.
Cecile ignores her role as mother, aside from sending the sisters to the Black Panthers community center in the morning for free breakfast and a fun filled day of poster making. When they come home from the day camp, she hands them a fistful of money for Chinese takeout.
For a book with lots of stickers it's actually pretty decent. Of course, it's about racism and that's usually enough to secure a nomination. I'd could completely relate to Delphine's trials of being a big sister, even though it sent me on a bit of a guilt trip. She's four years younger than I am and she doesn't think anything of grocery shopping for the family or taking her sisters to San Francisco for a day trip.
I found the family dynamics and dialouge authentic. Perhaps too authentic. Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern talk in a rhythmic pattern, finishing, repeating, and adding onto each others' sentences. Nearly all the arguments follow an Is not/Is too format: Black/Colored, No we can't/Surely can. Fern loves the word 'surely' almost as surely as her Miss Patty Cake doll.
I read this book because goodreads recommended it to me on three separate lists. Then I got a free copy. I'd recommend it to readers who enjoy late historical fiction along with anybody else who wonders why there are no books about black people.