2010 National Book Award Finalist,
Young People's Literature

Rita Williams-Garcia

One Crazy Summer

Amistad, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers

Photo credit: Jason Berger


Eleven-year-old Delphine has it together. Even though her mother, Cecile, abandoned her and her younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern, seven years ago. Even though her father and Big Ma will send them from Brooklyn to Oakland, California, to stay with Cecile for the summer. And even though Delphine will have to take care of her sisters, as usual, and learn the truth about the missing pieces of the past.

When the girls arrive in Oakland in the summer of 1968, Cecile wants nothing to do with them. She makes them eat Chinese takeout dinners, forbids them to enter her kitchen, and never explains the strange visitors with Afros and black berets who knock on her door. Rather than spend time with them, Cecile sends Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern to a summer camp sponsored by a revolutionary group, the Black Panthers, where the girls get a radical new education.


Winner of the PEN/Norma Klein Award and Finalist for the 2009 National Book Award, Rita Williams-Garcia is the author of six novels for young adults, including Blue Tights, Every Time a Rainbow Dies, Fast Talk on a Slow Track, Like Sisters on the Homefront, and No Laughter Here, the latter four of which were chosen as ALA Best Books for Young Adults. Like Sisters on the Homefront was also named a Coretta Scott King Honor Book. Williams-Garcia is currently a faculty member at the Vermont College of Fine Arts in the Writing for Children and Young Adults Program. She has two daughters, Michelle and Stephanie, and lives in Jamaica, New York.


Rita Williams-Garcia's website

Rita Williams-Garcia's page on Rutger's University website

Rita Williams-Garcia's HarperCollins webpage

Rita Williams-Garcia's 2009 NBA Finalist page (includes video)


What is wrong with this picture,” he stated instead of asked. He knew the answer, all right. I was pretty good at reading faces.

He didn’t have a leather jacket, but he was one of them. On his black T-shirt was a dead white pig with flies buzzing around it and the words OFF THE PIG in white letters. His hair was a big loose Afro because it was a little stringy. Stringy like Lucy Raleigh’s, who bragged about being part Chickasaw in the fourth grade but by fifth grade was singing “I’m Black and I’m Proud” louder than loud because James Brown’s song had made it the thing to do.

The stringy-Afro-wearing beak man wasn’t Papa-grown or Cecile-grown. Probably all of nineteen or twenty, but he thought he was something. He was putting on a show for all the other black beret wearers.

When none of us spoke, he pointed and asked again the question whose answer he already knew. “What is wrong with this picture?”

Fern pointed back at him and said, “I don’t know. What’s wrong with this picture?”
The other Black Panthers laughed and told Fern, “That’s right, Li’l Sis. Don’t take nothing from no one.” And they slapped palms and said stuff like, “These are Sister Inzilla’s, all right. Look at them.”

Beak Man tried to stand up to his humiliation. Shake it off.

“Li’l Sis, are you a white girl or a black girl?”

Fern said, “I’m a colored girl.”

He didn’t like the sound of “colored girl.” He said, “Black girl.”

Fern said, “Colored.”

“Black girl.”

Vonetta and I threw our “colored” on top of Fern’s like we were ringtossing at Coney Island. This was bigger than Say it loud, I’m Black and I’m proud. If one of us said “colored,” we all said “colored.” Unless we were fighting among ourselves.