Williams-Garcia’s Girls by KaaVonia Hinton
Williams-Garcia is probably best known for her Gaither Sisters Trilogy which was bound together in Gaither Sisters Trilogy Collection: One Crazy Summer, P.S. Be Eleven, Gone Crazy in Alabama (2018). One Crazy Summer, a New York Times bestseller, won several awards, including a Newbery Honor and the Scott O’Dell Award. It was also named a National Book Award finalist and a NAACP Image Award nominee. Its two Coretta Scott King Author Award winning companion novels, PS. Be Eleven (2013) and Gone Crazy in Alabama (2015), are equally lauded. With all of the excitement about these books and the publication of her latest books, A Sitting in St. James (2021), a 2021 Boston Globe–Horn Book Award winner set during slavery, and She Persisted: Florence Griffith Joyner (2021), a biography, it is easy to forget that Rita Williams-Garcia has been writing for young adults for over thirty years.
Both novels stress Williams-Garcia’s concern for the adultification of black girls, and they depict the loss associated with the deprivation of black girlhood. In the interview with Jordan, Williams-Garcia explains that she is influenced by Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf (1977): “See, people really missed For Colored Girls, entirely. Really missed the point. Shange tells you right from the start, ‘Visions of never having been a girl… scattered half notes.’ Why do you think it’s For Colored Girls and not For Black Women? One is whole and one is missing something. Girlhood” (309). Williams-Garcia is one of only a few writers who were exploring lost black girlhood in urban America in the late eighties and nineties.
Like Sisters on the Homefront is 26 years old, but it is still timely, funny, and important. Protagonist, Gayle Whitaker has an abridged girlhood. At fourteen years old, she is a mother pregnant with her second child and forced to get an abortion. Hoping extended family will offer Gayle support and an understanding of who she is and where she comes from, her mother sends her to live with her aunt and uncle in Georgia. While there, she slowly changes, learns responsibility, and embraces her family, culture, and history.
Jordan, S. M. Rita Williams-Garcia. (1993). In S. M. Jordan (Ed.), Broken silences: Interviews
with Black and White women writers (pp. 303-322). Rutgers.
KaaVonia Hinton is a professor in the Teaching & Learning Department at Old Dominion University and the author of articles and several books, including Angela Johnson: Poetic Prose (2006), Integrating Multicultural Literature in Libraries and Classrooms in Secondary Schools (2007) (with Gail K. Dickinson), Sharon M. Draper: Embracing Literacy (2009), and Young Adult Literature: Exploration, Evaluation and Appreciation, 3rd ed. (2013) (with Katherine T. Bucher).