Celebrate Black History Month with a Favorite Author

Three Sisters Witness History!

Rita Williams-Garcia is the African American author of a beloved trilogy of books about the Gaither sisters: Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern. These books cover a turbulent time in American history, the late 1960s, when the edge of the Civil Rights Movement was becoming more militant, and the fight for racial equality was fierce.

Get to know Rita Williams-Garcia’s trilogy:

One Crazy Summer

A Newbery Honor Book, a National Book Award Finalist, and a Coretta-Scott King Award winner begins this series, in which the sisters fly alone from their Brooklyn home to see their 7-year absent mother, Cecile, in Oakland. Cecile is not what they expected, hoped, or dreamed for in a mother. The girls want to go to Disney World and see the sights in nearby San Francicso, so they sneak away, but on their return, Cecile is arrested for organizing with the Black Panthers, a major (and often misunderstood) force in the struggle for Civil Rights. The sisters learn a lot about society, racism, and protesting in Oakland. However, it’s not all serious—the story is hilarious because these sisters banter and bicker with the best of them.

P.S. Be Eleven

The sisters are back in Brooklyn after a summer of wild experiences in California lead them to question everything around them. Their grandmother, Big Ma, is not crazy about this changing world. Pa has a fancy and fashionable girlfriend who tells the girls that women can do anything. The girls want nothing more than tickets to see The Jackson Five in concert. When their uncle returns from Vietnam, the girls witness even more of how unfair life can be, and how the war has wrecked him. In the letters Delphine writes to their mother in California expressing her worries, Cecile writes back to “Be eleven” and not to take on all of life’s problems too early.

Gone Crazy in Alabam

The Gaither girls are in for a huge change of scenes again as they are taken to see Big Ma and her own mother, Ma Charles, in rural Alabama, which is most certainly a whole world away from Brooklyn.  Here, the girls witness the lives of country people in a very racist southern state. Family mysteries surface such as why their great-grandmother Ma Charles won’t speak to her half-sister who lives just across the lane. Delphine must wrangle her sisters, learn the ways of country folk, and face a crisis that could bring the family together or blow them apart. Once again, the sisters learn about themselves and their country, and how being Black in America affects everyone they know and love.

Parents often ask what is useful about their children reading fiction. How can stories be of any help? These three books by Rita Williams-Garcia offer students a way to learn about the past and important historical events of Black History while following the entertaining antics and serious moments of the incredible Gaither sisters as they interact with their own family and an expanding, complex world changing around them. SpiderSmart loves these books!