Study Guide

One Crazy Summer Chapter 1

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Chapter 1

Cassius Clay Clouds

  • We open on a plane. Delphine (our narrator) and her sisters are on a plane and it's a bumpy ride.
  • The title of the chapter, it turns out, references the turbulence that they're going through.
  • The narrator comforts her sisters, so we know she's the caretaker.
  • The narrator has this idea that the clouds are causing the turbulence, and even though she knows she's not totally right about the clouds, she keeps on telling tall tales about fighting clouds.
  • The narrator thinks about her caretakers, Pa and Big Ma (Pa's Ma), who will be worried about them making a "grand N**** spectacle" of themselves. You can almost reach out and grab the air quotes around that phrase.
  • Delphine goes into a little thing about whether people call the famous boxer Cassius Clay or Muhammad Ali, which sets our story firmly in the mid-1960s (he changed his name in 1964 (source)). Consider yourselves warned that names are a big deal in this book.
  • Then Delphine remembers their dad dropping them off. Apparently they're off to Oakland to visit someone named Cecile.
  • Pa's not too excited about it, though.
  • The girls have high expectations of California. You know, sunshine, beaches, Disneyland, but there's some tension around Cecile, it seems. Big Ma, for one, doesn't feel great about the girls going out to see her (and that's putting it mildly).
  • Then again, Big Ma doesn't like change.
  • Cecile, it turns out, left Pa and the girls on their own back in Brooklyn. She's the girls' mom, but she hasn't acted like one.
  • Delphine doesn't remember much about Cecile and really only hears about her from Uncle Darnell.
  • Anyway, they've been put on the plane with $200 cash for Disneyland, emergency phone numbers, and lots of hugs and kisses.
  • With that, we're all caught up.

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