Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia

Does anyone remember being twelve? Remember lazy summers? Remember visiting relatives who we thought were "boring" and that going to the country would give us "nothing" to do. Remember sibiling rivileries? Remember just  wanting things to be normal?

Rita Williams-Garcia does not dissapoint in this finale to the Gaither sisters story that gives us a glimpse of life in the pivotal Civil Rights Era against the backdrop of cultral change.

We saw the girls go from their hair pressed and walking in dresses that Big Ma insisted up in One Crazy Summer to their finding voice, liberation, and afro puffs in P.S. Be Eleven, to finally coming to the place of understanding their family history against the backrop of American history and the changing course of culture.

The three sisters - Delphine, the oldest, Vonetta, the middle and sometimes meanest, and Fern AKA Afua, the youngest and most perceptive - found themselves with bags of food, candy for each state, and a train ride from Brooklyn to the backwoods of their family land in deep Alabama.

We went back to 1969 and encountered Big Ma and Ma Charles, met their "Great Aunt Miss Trotter" on the other side of the creek who kept up a generations long fued with her half-sister, Ma Charles, until near tragedy, natural disaster, and the realization that all we have is each other, brought them together has family.

Cecile, their mother who gave them the gift of freedom and support, walked back in her man's pants, allowing Delphine to answer the unanswered questions that lingered in her heart from when she was four, Vonetta was two, and Fern was a new born when their mother walked out of their life.

Ms. Williams-Garcia spared us the temptation to tidy up all the lose ends and put a perfect bow on their stories. She gave us the photograph, the snapshot, knowing that in life, we are all made up of stories and we encounter each other in moments. Those moments can be as exciting as hoping to see young Michael Jackson dance on TV or as riviting as the Moon Landing or as powerful as a revolution, we are only encountering each other at moments with many ends-of-the-story left to be told.

This tender coming-of-age triology is of course perfect for middle school girls, but is a walk down memory lane for some of us born in the 1960s. Fern AKA Afua was born the same year as my husband. The year of One Crazy Summer was also a year after my own mother died and the summer I was to start kindergarten. Everything was changing, just like the Whites Only Signs that were coming down in town, new moments bring new revelations.

The journey back to Brooklyn, with all family members in tact, gives us hope that the three sisters and the "brother" that Fern was sure was in Mrs. belly, would go on the lead the movement into the 1970s and beyond.

We are gifted with the Author's notes about the historical events of the three novels and the assumed family three of the lines that wrapped around the sissters and their cousin, JimmyTrotter, no spaces.  Realizing the interconnection of African American, Native American, and European American history, Rital Willaims-Garcia tenderly challenges us to see the humanity and relations in each other, to cross the creek, and to sit at the table together.

Filled with fear of loss, hope of new life, and promise of love even later in life, this was a joy to read.

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