Sunday, February 18, 2018

One Crazy Summer (The Gaither Sisters #1)

Recorded Books, November 2010

It's 1968, and Delphine is just eleven years old when she and her two younger sisters (Vonetta, age nine, and Fern, age seven), travel alone on an airplane from New York to Oakland, California, to see their mother Cecile, for the first time since Delphine was five.

Only Delphine has any real memories of their mother.

It's Delphine who tells the story, and Delphine who has to take responsibility for her sisters, even after Cecile picks them up at the airport. Cecile is cool, not at all motherly, and pays as little attention to them as possible. The girls long for the motherly affection and connection they've never had, and still don't have.

Instead, Cecile sends them off each day to Black Panther "summer camp," at the community center. It's where they get breakfast, and it's where they get an education in black history, civil rights, and self-assertion that their father and grandmother, more laid-back and conservative personalities, never gave them.

Cecile is a poet, and she has a printing press, and to the Panthers she's "Sister Anzilla." (Spelling is a guess; I listened to the audiobook.) She has a somewhat testy relationship with the Black Panthers, happy to send the girls to them for breakfast, summer school, and other activities during their month-long visit, but a bit resentful when the Panthers want her to use her printing press for their flyers and newspaper.

What we see in this book is a view of the Black Panthers that, as a girl just about Delphine's age, but white, I certainly didn't get at the time.

And I love Delphine. I had just one younger sister, even younger than Fern, and like Delphine, in many ways I became responsible for her. At that age, you can manage many of the tasks, but the responsibility is more of a burden than adults, overworked themselves and not remembering what it felt like to be that age, often don't recognize. Delphine does her best, mostly does quite well--and gets chewed out when she makes a wrong choice, even though no harm came of it. I wanted to cheer when she spoke up for herself then!

It's a strange, crazy summer for the girls, especially Delphine, and they learn a lot and even, to some extent, start to find themselves as individuals.


I bought this audiobook.