What are the major themes of One Crazy Summer?

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One Crazy Summer focuses largely on themes of reluctant motherhood and Black power. Cecile/Nzila is a poet and Black Panther and is clearly more invested in these roles than in being a mother. She cares about her children at certain levels but is frustrated by the expectation that her life...

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One Crazy Summer focuses largely on themes of reluctant motherhood and Black power. Cecile/Nzila is a poet and Black Panther and is clearly more invested in these roles than in being a mother. She cares about her children at certain levels but is frustrated by the expectation that her life revolve around caring for them and the fact that they were sent to her for the summer without her asking for them. She wants her days to mostly be free to work as a poet and values the education the Black Panther summer programs can give to her daughters, so she sends her kids to their summer programs most days.

Her daughters give us three slightly different windows into how outsiders make sense of the Black Panthers. They are initially wary based on media portrayals that make them think the Panthers will be irrationally violent, and the reclamation of African heritage taken on by many Panthers (and other Afro-centric individuals) is framed as laughable to them. Over time, they come to appreciate this heritage and the importance of the work done by the Panthers. Even while giving this portrayal, the book avoids over-romanticizing the Panthers, also showing dynamics of sexism and coercion that Nzila pushes back against.

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