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Friday, February 26, 2016

Gone Crazy in Alabama, written by Rita Williams-Garcia. Amistad, Harper. 2015. $21.00 ages 8 and up

"We had been gone long enough. Long enough, I hoped, for Big Ma to forget why she had us `git` to begin with. The smells of cabbage, potatoes, and meat on top of burned cornstarch, lavender and metal from an afternoon of ironing saluted me when I walked inside Ma Charles`s house. I was hungry, and ashamed, but glad to be back. I hugged my apology to Big Ma and for all of a second, she let me, and then she pushed me off her."

In her final story about their family, following One Crazy Summer and P.S. Be Eleven, the three Gaither girls are sent to Alabama to spend the summer with their grandmother, Big Ma, and her mother, Ma Charles. Their father warns them that this summer will be very different that the one they spent with their mother in California. He advises that there should no talk about black pride in the southern small town where the two live. Life is noticeably different there.

 “None of that black power stuff in Alabama. Black Panthers strut about in Brooklyn and in Oakland, but they’re not so loud and proud in Alabama and Mississippi.”

Delphine's first-person voice is strong throughout the telling. She has worries about how the family is changing: her mother in California, her father remarried and expecting a new baby, her grandmothers and Uncle Darnell living together in the South. There is a whole lot to learn about the extended family the girls meet while visiting. The three are very unsophisticated about southern ways, and are surprised to learn that their family has a Creek Indian great-grandparent, that Ma Charles has a half-sister living nearby and the two never communicate, and that the town's white sheriff is definitely a member of the Klan, and may even be its leader.Their cousin, James Trotter, is also an important character in helping them adjust to the family dynamics.  It is a diverse and unsettling group.

All three girls remain true to the characters developed in the first two books. Delphine is the oldest, the 'mean and bossy' one. Vonetta is unwilling to forgive her uncle for betraying them earlier and likes to incite unrest, running back and forth between the two feuding sisters, stirring the pot at every possible opportunity. Fern is observant and trying her hand at expressing herself through poetry, in keeping with her mother' particular talent. The voices are so strong and real, you imagine sitting in on all of their bickering. There is humor, angst, and a great deal of love.

When a tornado and its aftermath threaten one of them, they ALL stand together in loyalty and love.
It is the perfect ending for an brilliant trilogy that explores family, history and family history. I will never forget these fine, flawed, lovely people.  Please don't miss spending time with them.

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