Friday, November 6, 2020

Freeform Friday: One Crazy Summer - Rita Williams-Garcia

Summary: Set during one of the most tumultuous years in recent American history Onw Crazy Summer is the heartbreaking, funny tale of three girls who travel to Oakland, California, in 1968 in search of the mother who abandoned them.  It's an unforgettable story told by a distinguised author of books for children and teens, Rita Williams-Garcia.  (Summary from back of book - Image from amazon.com)

My Review: I am going to be painfully honest right now.  In the past, I haven't been in the habit of searching out books that tell stories from a black perspective.  It's not that I have anything against the BIPOC genre, I just haven't put a lot of thought into my selections or tried to push myself to expand my reading repertoire.  However, I am trying to be more intentional in my choice of reading material. One Crazy Summer is one of the first books that I chose to start this journey.  And, yes, it's a children's historical fiction book and not an epic manifesto.  Baby steps, okay?  It's award-winning*.  See all those shiny circles on the cover!

One Crazy Summer is the bittersweet tale of three young black sisters who are sent across the country to visit their estranged mother during the summer of 1968.  Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern don't have much say in the matter when they are shipped off to see Cecile, the woman who abandoned them when Fern was just a baby.  They aren't sure what to expect, but what they get is a woman who is far more interested in her own poetry than she is in their existence.  As the eldest, Delphine takes it upon herself to care for her sisters while they navigate the murky waters that surround their mother and her indifference. During their stay in Oakland, the sisters have their own adventures, discovering a life quite different from the one they had in Brooklyn, rubbing elbows with Black Panthers, participating in a movement, making new friends, and seeing the sights.

I loved the personality differences between each sister -- the responsible and pragmatic Delphine, outgoing and attention-seeking Vonetta, and determined little Fern.  As the mother of four young girls, I can attest that their different personalities and sisterly interaction (re: mostly bickering) felt incredibly genuine.  Delphine is an emotionally complex narrator; she has all the feelings you would expect her to feel about her mother.  She's angry, hurt, and (though she tries to hide it) hungry for acknowledgment, or, at the very least, an explanation for her abandonment.  At times, her perspective laid bare certain racist attitudes and inequalities of the 1960s that made me incredibly uncomfortable, primarily because it has become increasingly clear that they still exist today.  It's not a criticism of the text. However discomfiting, I think that those moments have value and pave the way for important conversations.

Overall, I appreciated the opportunity to read One Crazy SummerEnjoyable and entertaining, don't seem to be quite the right descriptors, but I do feel edified by the experience.

My Rating: 4.25 Stars

For the Sensitive Reader:  Some topics regarding racism and maternal abandonment might be difficult to read.

*One Crazy Summer has received numerous accolades.  It earned the Coretta Scott King Award and the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction, is a 2011 Newbery Honor Book, a National Book Award finalist, and was named Book of the Year by no less than seven major publications.  

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