Monday, October 28, 2013
P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia
The girls have just returned to Herkimer Street in Brooklyn after spending the summer with the mother Cecile in Oakland, CA (see One Crazy Summer). Gone for one short summer, when they get back home things are definitely different. For one thing, their father is a changed man now that he has a girlfriend, Miss Marva Hendrix, and it looks like they are getting serious. And they beloved Uncle Darnell is coming home from Vietnam. Of course, the girls have also changed. Now they know about the Civil Rights Movement, the Black Panthers and the new Feminist Movement. But Delphine, Vonetta and Fern soon learn that sisterhood begins at home.
The Jackson Five have hit the pop charts hard and soon they will be coming to Madison Square Garden. Papa isn't too crazy about the idea of the girls going to their concert, but Miss Marva Hendrix is all for it. And so it is agreed: the girls will save their money and pay half the cost and Marva will pay the other half. And she puts middle sister Vonetta in charge of the money usurping the power over her younger sisters older sister Delphine always had. Now she has to trust Vonetta with all her hard gotten cash.
Things have changed at school, as well. Delphine doesn't get the sixth grade teacher she was supposed to have and ends up with a strict exchange teacher from Africa, Mr. Mwila, who actually expects his students to do the work assigned and do it well. And when Uncle Darnell comes home from Vietnam, its as if he is a completely changed person and not for the better. All he does is sleep the days away and go out at night. And then, the Jackson Five money gets stolen. Meanwhile Delphine has started writing back to her mother Cecile. Delphine pours out all her worries and concerns to Cecile and doesn't understand why her mother always ends her letters with the words P.S. Be eleven.
But her mother, even if she is a distant mother, knows that Delphine is taking life too seriously and taking too much responsibility on her shoulders for an 11 year old.
P.S. Be Eleven might sound like a coming of age novel, but it isn't. Delphine is in the throes of growing pains, changing but still on the coming of age threshold. And watching Delphine navigate her growing pains as she narrates them to the reader is what makes her such an endearing character and the novel so wonderful.
P.S. Be Eleven is a delight to read and a nice stand alone novel. I haven't read One Crazy Summer, though I was inspired to go out and get a copy to read, but this works very well as a stand alone novel. While I am sure that the Gaither sisters has lots of adventures in the first novel, enough is made clear in the second whenever something from it comes up.
Rita Williams-Garcia got so much so right in this novel. Her depiction of Brooklyn in 1968 is perfection and she has really captured the mood of the times. The late 1960s was an pivotal time in the history of this country and it effected everyone in one way or another and how it impacted one family in Bed-Sty Brooklyn is all detailed in P.S. Be Eleven. Surely did!
This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was borrowed from the NYPL