Tuesday, September 21, 2010

One Crazy Summer

by Rita Williams-Garcia
215 pages

     It's 1968 and LBJ is president, the Vietnam War rages on and Robert Kennedy's funeral takes place at St. Patrick's Cathedral in NYC.  The Yippie Movement lead by Abbie Hoffman is in  East Coast  while on the West,  the Black Panthers  lead their own movement.  While they  protest Huey Newton's arrest and the death of young Panther, Bobby Hutton, the Panthers also run a summer camp of sorts, a free health clinic and provide breakfast for thousands of children in the Oakland neighborhood.  It was fascintating stuff learning more about this organization, generally shadowed in a negative light.

     The book opens with three sisters, Delphine, Vonetta and Fern,  flying from NYC to Oakland, CA where they will meet their mother-the mother who abandoned them years earlier when Fern was a baby.   She chose poetry over her own children but their father feels it is important for the girls to see her. 

The meeting: 
The stewardess marched us on over to this figure.  Once we were there, face-to-face, the stewardess stopped in her tracks and made herself a barrier between the strange woman and us.  The same stewardess who let the large white woman gawk at us and press money into Fern's hand wasn't so quick to hand us over to the woman I said was our mother.  I wanted to be mad, but I couldn't say I blamed her entirely.  It could have been the way the woman was dressed.  Big black shades.  Scarf tied around her head.  Over the scarf, a big hat tilted down, the kind Pa wore with a suit.  A pair of man's pants.  Fern clung to me.  Cecile looked more like a secret agent than a mother.  But I knew she was Cecile.  I knew she was our mother....
Cecile finally turned as she got to the glass doors and looked to see where we were.  When we caught up, she said, "Ya'll have to move if you're going to be with me." (18-19)

     It is an amazing summer of connections but not between Cecile and her girls but the community and the girls; a world far away from their sheltered life with Big Ma and their Pa.  Here they go to get dinner for themselves from the Chinese restaurant on the corner.  They become part of life at the Black Panter Community Center.  As they move into the larger picture of the world, Cecile realizes a thing or two about these girls she does not claim. 

     My thoughts:  I loved reading about this era and felt Rita Williams-Garcia did a great job of portraying this very hip, yet dark time in our history.  Each character had very distinct qualities and even Cecile had some hidden treasures with in her odd personality. Even though I despised her abandonment I know in my heart many women are just not mothers.  The sisters are loveable and fiesty-how could Cecile not  love them fully-and end up understanding her despite her shortcomings as a mother.  I think this one will win an award or two!

Other Reviews:

Stacy at Welcome to my Tweendom
Nicki at Dog Ear
Jennifer Represents...
Sommer Reading

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1 comment:

Ms. Yingling said...

I liked this one, but it's been a really hard sell in my library.