It's the summer of 1968, and three sisters are sent cross-country from Brooklyn to Oakland to spend a month with their mother. Their mother who left them when the youngest was a brand-new baby, their mother who is fierce and angry and doesn't seem to want to have anything to do with any of them, who dresses like a spy and has a strange new name, who pushes them out of the house and sends them to spend their summer days anywhere but in her hair.
She sends the girls to a community summer camp run by Black Panthers, and lets them eat greasy take-out Chinese food for every meal. Clearly the girls will have to fend for themselves and luckily, oldest-sister Delphine is sensible and wiser than her 11 years. Delphine takes care of Vonetta and Fern when their "mom" Nzila won't, or can't.
This is historical fiction, sure, but it isn't a history lesson... it is LIVING history. The voices of each of the three girls, and their poet mother Nzila, and even the smallest side character, are true and infused with their own rhythm. I felt like I was on the streets of Oakland listening to real people. The girls themselves are smart girls, and strong girls, but they've had a very traditional upbringing and they are walking into a completely unknown world. In 28 days, we see them each grow up, to learn to feel the world a bit more like how their poet mother does, and get radicalized in their own ways. I think that the reader will take some of that rhythm, poetry and revolutionary spirit away from the book as well.