Study Guide

One Crazy Summer Summary

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One Crazy Summer Summary

When Delphine and her two younger sisters, Fern and Vonetta, head out to Oakland to meet up with their runaway mom after four years, they're not sure what to expect. Will Cecile greet them with a big hug?

Yeah, nope. In fact, she doesn't seem keen on getting lovey-dovey at all, instead sending the girls to Black Panther summer camp everyday. (Fun fact: This book is set in the 1960s.) This isn't your average foursquare-playing, lanyard-making, starting a vicious prank war against the cabin next door only to discover your long-lost twin lives there summer camp, either.

But it's not what the girls expect from the fighters for Black Power either. Delphine might have heard on the street that the Black Panthers are known for violence, but that's not what she and her sisters get a taste of at the camp. They join tons of other kids and a kind, welcoming teacher who teaches them lessons about unity and taking care of the planet. The closest to violence they come is learning to protect themselves against it and learning what their rights are in case someone (ahem, police included) decides to target them because of the color of their skin.

Which isn't to say it's all sunshine and rainbows. Members of the Black Panthers intimidate Cecile into using her little printing press to make flyers for them, and one of them incessantly makes fun of the girls for not being "black enough"—but they also provide a place for kids to go all day during the summer. They feed them, teach them, and keep them from getting into bigger trouble, which abounds in run-down Oakland.

Delphine isn't just surprised that the Black Panthers aren't who she expected them to be, though; her mom isn't who Delphine anticipated, either. Cecile sends Delphine out to the local Chinese food joint to get dinner every night instead of cooking for them. She's super particular about no one going in the kitchen—ever. She has a printing press in there where she prints her poems under the pen name Nzila.

Over the summer, Delphine wears Cecile down on her strict rules. She's not warm and fuzzy by any stretch of the imagination, but at least Delphine is allowed to venture into the kitchen and cook dinner every night so they don't have to eat greasy food anymore. Plus, Cecile gets the girls a radio to entertain them.

One day, Cecile gets arrested, simply for her poems. It turns out the police don't like people hearing how much power black people should have, so they lock Cecile up and throw away the key. Delphine and her sisters stay with a friend from camp until their mom is released from jail. They are performing at a big political rally on the weekend and have to rehearse anyway; together, they recite one of their mom's poems about black power. Everyone hoots and hollers, especially Cecile who's let out of jail just in time to see the girls have their fifteen minutes of fame.

Delphine and Cecile decide to keep in touch now that the summer's done. Cecile still doesn't really want to be a mom and take care of the girls, but Delphine isn't as angry with her anymore either. She knows Cecile cares a lot about Black Power and is working hard for the cause.

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