*This reflection contains SPOILERS.*
One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia has won multiple awards, including being a Newberry and Coretta Scott King book. Three sister are sent to spend a month with the mother who left them. They don’t know what to expect and are introduced to the world in a new way during their brief stay in California.
Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern are like most sisters. They depend on each other, but also know exactly how to push each other. As the oldest, at eleven years old, Delphine takes on a motherly role; Vonetta is nine and a show off; Fern is seven, and a little harder to gauge than the others, but clearly has a fire within her. Delphine narrates their story, giving insight into her role and her feelings. Cecile, their mother is still learning to be herself and care for her own needs after a difficult childhood. Because of this she doesn’t show much care or attention to her daughters.
The sisters end up spending most of their trip at the People’s Center run by the Black Panthers. Delphine’s thinking begins to shift here. Big Ma had taught them to be proper, to please white people, to appear meek and safe at all times, but Sister Mumbaki opens Delphine’s eyes to another option: respect, rights, and safety. Over the course of the novel the reader sees her gradually change. One example of this is her reaction to people looking at her and her sisters. When they first arrive in the airport, a white woman tries to give the sisters money because of how cute they are. Delphine seems indifferent, despite Cecile’s opposition. Three weeks later, while the girls explore Chinatown, white tourists (possibly Europeans) point at them and take pictures of the sisters from across the street. Delphine doesn’t like this attention and quickly get her and her sisters away from them.
Despite the heavy topics of One Crazy Summer, like identity and racial justice, it is an accessible novel for young readers. Delphine’s narration is relatable; she makes thoughtful observations about her world, her sisters, and Cecile. Additionally, the short focused chapters are ideal for young readers.
Delphine is very mature for an eleven year old, which makes sense given the responsibility she feels for her sisters. Regardless, she is relatable in her struggle to understand and find her identity, and she maintains many elements of her age. Delphine thinks she knows what is best, but has to be reminded of adults’ roles and importance, and that she still needs to listen to them and respect them. My favorite part in One Crazy Summer is when Cecile and Delphine finally talk. Cecile opens up, sharing with Delphine the challenges of her young life and why she left them. Delphine begins to understand her mother’s need for solitude, and her own identity, but it doesn’t stop her longing for her mother.
One Crazy Summer was a beautiful summer adventure. A great introduction to the black Panthers and the continued fight for civil rights and breaking down of systematic racism. Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern are easy to fall in love with, as they learn about civil rights, justice, their mother, and themselves.