One Crazy Summer Summary

Rita Williams-Garcia

One Crazy Summer

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One Crazy Summer Summary

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One Crazy Summer is a historical fiction novel for children, written by the American author Rita Williams-Garcia and published in 2010. The novel follows the summer of 1968, during which three sisters named Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern visit their mother in Oakland, California. The novel has been formally recognised several times, the first being during the year of its release, when it was a National Book Award finalist for young people’s literature. In 2011, One Crazy Summer won the Coretta Scott King Award, the Scot O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction, and was a Newbery Medal Honor Book. There are many significant themes in One Crazy Summer. They include but are not limited to radical civil rights movements including the Black Panthers, black pride and racial prejudice, women’s liberation, family, forgiveness, and growth.

One Crazy Summer centers around three sisters–eleven-year-old Delphine, nine-year-old Vonetta, and seven-year-old Fern. They have been sent to Oakland from their home in Brooklyn, New York, where they live with their father, Pa, and their grandmother, Big Ma. The two adults decided the children should try to re-establish contact with Cecile, their mother. Big Ma is initially hesitant, as she believes Cecile to be a greedy, selfish person. The girls, meanwhile, seem to be more interested in visiting California than in being reunited with their mother. They don’t really have anything positive to say about their mother. Delphine, the eldest, still harbors much resentment towards her mother, because she is at least old enough to have some small memories of her mother. This seems to make the abandonment much worse for her. When Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern arrive in Oakland, they are vastly disappointed by their mother. She has become a Black Panther, a member of a radical group of civil rights activists. She spends most of her time in her kitchen, where she works on political poetry and prints numerous flyers. She tells her children over and over that she never wanted them to visit, and that she never asked for this. She tells them she should have gone to Mexico and got rid of them while she had the chance. These horrifying statements deeply upset the girls, but they remain determined to enjoy their trip, despite their mother’s behaviour.

Every day, Cecile tells them to go to the local People’s Shelter. This is where they meet the other Black Panthers in the area, some of whom are extremely cruel, militant, and severe, even towards the children. One example of this is Crazy Kelvin, who makes fun of and criticizes Fern for the baby doll she carries around because it is a white baby doll, and Fern is a black girl. He believes Fern should not play with dolls that look like those who opress them. Sister Mukumbu, in contrast, is kind and welcomes the girls. She teaches the girls about the Black Panther movement and helps them understand the need for it. Sister Mukumbu also teaches classes every day for children at the Center. This includes things like civil rights, social justice, and revolution. She encourages the young children to take part in some very radical projects that are designed to bring about change. This includes coloring protest posters the Black Panthers use. All the while, Delphine and her little sisters are still having a difficult time getting along with their mother. All she ever seems to want to do is order Chinese food. Delphine begins to cook a real meal for herself and her sisters and mother. Cecile is angry about this, and admonishes Delphine for not being more selfish and caring too much about others. This makes Delphine furious, as it reminds her vividly of the abandonment she’s experienced. The next day, the girls explore the nearby city of San Francisco, but when they return to Oakland, they find out that Cecile and two other Black Panthers have been arrested. The paint studio that Cecile worked in is trashed, and the girls clean it. They plan to perform one of Cecile’s poems at a rally. The goal of this rally is to free Huey Newton and rename a park after Bobby Hutton, two members of the Black Panthers. The girls arrive at the rally and perform the poem. It is a huge success, and the audience gives them enthusiastic applause. Cecile is released from prison in time to see this performance, and she sees how well her daughters did. She has a talk with the girls, excusing her behaviour because she was on her own since she was eleven, after her mother was killed in a car accident. She tells Delphine to enjoy being a child more, before it is too late. The next day, she drives the girls to the airport so they can return home to New York. They hug their mother before they go.