Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern, three sisters, leave Brookland and their Papa and grandmother (Big Ma) to travel to Oakland, CA to meet their mother. It's 1968, and Cecile lives in the black part of Oakland; she has a printing press, and she's a poet, and she has Black Panthers asking her to use her press.
Delphine, 11 going on 12, and her sisters go eat free breakfast every morning at the Center and then spend their afternoons taking classes about revolution, about protecting themselves from the police, about black power and knowing your rights. Delphine remembers seeing about riots and shoot-outs on the news, but she doesn't remember ever seeing anything about the Panthers handing out food.
Cecile doesn't seem to want them there, doesn't seem to care that they are unless they get in her way. Delphine takes care of her sisters, just like always; she makes sure they're fed, makes sure they're bathed, make sure they don't fight too much. They take up for her, too, in public, and they all bicker in private.
This is the best kind of historical fiction. The characters come alive, their relationships leap off the page and make you love them, make you feel how they love each other. The history is going on all around them, offering context, offering knowledge, but it's not anything like didactic.
I just loved everything about this novel. The best book I've read...oh, in a long time, honestly. I'm counting some Newbery winners and some delightful YA fiction in there.