Dinner Table Talks create the opportunity for families to have important conversations centered around books. These discussions will build our capacity for talking about race and define our roles in fighting against both every day and systemic racism.
It’s the summer of 1968, and three sisters, Delphine, Fern and Vonetta are on their way from Brooklyn, New York to Oakland, California to spend a month with a mother they hardly know. Abandoned by her six years earlier, they have learned to fend for themselves while living with their father and grandmother. Winner of multiple awards, including the 2011 Newbery Medal, this novel, the first of the trilogy, tells the story of the sisters’ journey from their world on one side of the country to another that couldn’t be further away from the one they’ve known. While the girls dream of learning to surf and a trip to Disneyland, they instead find themselves attending a day camp run by the Black Panthers. They discover their mother Cecile, an activist and a poet, is not exactly the person they’ve been planning to meet. She’s definitely not welcoming – in fact, she seems like she doesn’t even wants them there at all. She won’t let her daughters into the kitchen or into her life, leaving the Gaither sisters to their own devices. Readers will be entranced by the unforgettable characters in this story as well as the locations the author describes with language that will put you right there in the middle of it all. The sisters learn a lot over the summer – about themselves, their country, their heritage and self-reliance. Interesting historical details complement this story of family and resilience and will leave readers wanting more. After finishing One Crazy Summer, continue the story of the Gaither sisters in P.S. Be Eleven and Gone Crazy in Alabama.
2010 National Book Award for Young People's Literature
2011 Coretta Scott King Author Award
2011 Newbery Medal Honor
Recommended by Leslie Tetreault | Children and Teen Department Manager
Author Rita Williams-Garcia talks about she wrote One Crazy Summer.
Guidelines for Discussion
Be open and honest--even when it's hard.
Understand your own prejudice and bias.
Embrace other cultures or races by reading books, watching movies and going to community events.
Celebrate yourself and your own cultural identity.
Don't shy away from conversations about race. Talking is how you build capacity for anti-racism.
Acknowledge your mistakes and learn from them.
It's okay not to know the answer. Look for it together.
One Crazy Summer is set in 1968. What do you notice that is different in the late 1960s than the present? What about the rights and treatment of people? How are those same people treated today?
Delphine is the oldest sister. Vonetta is in the middle and Fern is the youngest. Can you name a quality you admire about each sister? Also, what do you think is the best part of being the oldest, middle or youngest sister? What do you think is the hardest part?
Before the airplane ride, Big Ma and Pa warn the sisters not to make a spectacle of themselves in front of white people. Why do you think that people might feel that they have act a particular way in front of certain people? What do you think of stereotypes (“an oversimplified and/or unfair belief or idea that groups of people have particular characteristics or that all people in a group are the same” from Teaching Tolerance| tolerance.org)? Is it fair to make assumptions about an entire group of people?
The Gaither Sisters’ mother, Cecile, does not conform (“to fit in with a group or a group’s expectations” from Teaching Tolerance| tolerance.org)to what people might expect of a mother. Do you think women were free to be whom and what they wanted to be during this time? Do you think that made it harder or easier for Cecile to live her life? Do you think women are free to be whom and what they want to be now?
“Cecile made it sound like it was no big deal. 'I've been fighting for freedom all my life.' But she wasn't talking about protest signs, standing up to the Man, and knowing your rights. She was talking about her life. Just her. Not the people.” What does this quote from Delphine say about the person Cecile has become and why?
In the 1960s (and even today), the Black Panther Party is often portrayed as a group of people who used violence to spread their message and create change. After reading the book, do you think that portrayal is accurate? Why or why not?
Delphine talks about the sisters' "La-La-La song" and say it's "the thing we do when the world isn't singing a nice tune to us." Do you have a La-La-La song when the world or people aren't being nice to you? What do you do to "drown out the ugly?"
Why does Kelvin and the Ankton sisters make fun of Fern's doll, Miss Patty Cake? Why do you think Vonetta reacts the way that she does? How do you think Fern feels about Miss Patty Cake and why?
What kind of relationship do you think each of the sisters is hoping to have with their mother? What kind of relationship do they actually have when they leave to return home?
We learn a lot about Cecile, the Gaither sisters' mother, before we meet her in the story. How do you feel about Cecile at the beginning of One Crazy Summer? How do you feel about her at the end?
How to Make a Protest Poster
Before you begin working on your poster discuss things that you believe in. What topics or issues are important to you? What would you want to say to the world?
Large piece of cardboard or poster board
Paint brush or foam brush
Step 1: Gather your materials.
Step 2: Use your pencil to layout the words you want to share on your poster.
Step 3: Take you paint and brush and use them to go over what you have written. It is okay if you do not trace over what you have written perfectly.
Step 4: After the paint has dried you can use your pencil eraser or any other eraser you have to erase pencil lines that were not covered by the paint.
Share your voice with the world!
Want to continue the conversation? Need more resources about race?
Take a look at the following booklists to find more great titles about Black history and the Black experience: