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.
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
Fingers crossed that this terrific book set in the Bay Area will get a well-deserved nod come awards season!
To buy ONE CRAZY SUMMER, click here.