Author bio

Rita Williams-Garcia

Rita Williams-Garcia - book author

"I was born in Queens, N.Y, on April 13, 1957. My mother, Miss Essie, named me 'NoMo' immediately after my birth. Although I was her last child, I took my time making my appearance. I like to believe I was dreaming up a good story and wouldn’t budge until I was finished. Even now, my daughters call me 'Pokey Mom', because I slow poke around when they want to go-go-go.

"I learned to read early, and was aware of events going on as I grew up in the 60s. In the midst of real events, I daydreamed and wrote stories. Writing stories for young people is my passion and my mission. Teens will read. They hunger for stories that engage them and reflect their images and experiences."

Author of four award winning novels, Rita Williams-Garcia continues to break new ground in young people's literature. Known for their realistic portrayal of teens of color, Williams-Garcia's works have been recognized by the Coretta Scott King Award Committee, PEN Norma Klein, American Library Association, and Parents' Choice, among others. She recently served on the National Book Award Committee for Young People's Literature and is on faculty at Vermont College MFA Writing for Children and Young People.

Rita Williams-Garcia is the author of books: One Crazy Summer (Gaither Sisters, #1), P.S. Be Eleven (Gaither Sisters, #2), Gone Crazy in Alabama (Gaither Sisters, #3), Like Sisters on the Homefront, Clayton Byrd Goes Underground, Jumped, No Laughter Here, Every Time a Rainbow Dies, Blue Tights, Fast Talk on a Slow Track


Author books

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Title
Description
01
In the summer of 1968, after travelling from Brooklyn to Oakland, California, to spend a month with the mother they barely know, eleven-year-old Delphine and her two younger sisters arrive to a cold welcome as they discover that their mother, a dedicated poet and printer, is resentful of the intrusion of their visit and wants them to attend a nearby Black Panther summer camp.

In a humorous and breakout book by Williams-Garcia, the Penderwicks meet the Black Panthers.
02
In this exquisite sequel to the New York Times bestseller One Crazy Summer, the Gaither sisters return to Brooklyn and find that changes large and small have come to their home.

After spending the summer in Oakland with their mother and the Black Panthers, Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern arrive home with a newfound streak of independence, and the sisters aren't the only ones who have changed. Now Pa has a girlfriend. Uncle Darnell returns from Vietnam a different man. But Big Ma still expects Delphine to keep her sisters in line. That's much harder now that Vonetta and Fern refuse to be bossed around. Besides her sisters, Delphine's got plenty of other things to worry about-like starting sixth grade, being the tallest girl in her class, and dreading the upcoming school dance (her first). The one person she confides in is her mother, Cecile. Through letters, Delphine pours her heart out and receives some constant advice: to be eleven while she can.

The sequel to the Newbery Honor Book and Coretta Scott King Award winner One Crazy Summer, P.S. Be Eleven stands on its own as a funny, moving story of three sisters coming of age in the turbulent 1960s.
03
Coretta Scott King Award winner * ALA Notable Book * School Library Journal Best Book of the Year * Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year * ALA Booklist Editors’ Choice * Shelf Awareness Best Book of the Year * Washington Post Best Books of the Year * The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books Blue Ribbon Book * Three starred reviews * CCBC Choice * New York Public Library 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing * Amazon Best Book of the Year

The Coretta Scott King Award–winning Gone Crazy in Alabama by Newbery Honor and New York Times bestselling author Rita Williams-Garcia tells the story of the Gaither sisters as they travel from the streets of Brooklyn to the rural South for the summer of a lifetime.

Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern are off to Alabama to visit their grandmother Big Ma and her mother, Ma Charles. Across the way lives Ma Charles’s half sister, Miss Trotter. The two half sisters haven’t spoken in years. As Delphine hears about her family history, she uncovers the surprising truth that’s been keeping the sisters apart. But when tragedy strikes, Delphine discovers that the bonds of family run deeper than she ever knew possible.

Powerful and humorous, this companion to the award-winning One Crazy Summer and P.S. Be Eleven will be enjoyed by fans of the first two books, as well as by readers meeting these memorable sisters for the first time.
04
When Gayle gets into trouble with her boyfriend, her mother sends the street-smart 14-year-old-and her baby, José, down to Georgia to live with Uncle Luther and his family. There's nothing to do, nowhere to go, and no one around except kneesock-wearing, Jesus-praising cousin Cookie. Then Gayle meets Great, the family matriarch-and her stories of the past begin to change how Gayle sees her future.
05
A National Book Award Longlist title that has earned 5 starred reviews!

"This slim novel strikes a strong chord."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"This complex tale of family and forgiveness has heart.” School Library Journal (starred review)

"Strong characterizations and vivid musical scenes add layers to this warm family story.” Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“An appealing, realistic story with frequent elegant turns of phrase." —The Horn Book (starred review)

"Garcia-Williams skillfully finds melody in words.” —Booklist (starred review)

From beloved Newbery Honor winner and three-time Coretta Scott King Award winner Rita Williams-Garcia comes a powerful and heartfelt novel about loss, family, and love that will appeal to fans of Jason Reynolds and Kwame Alexander.

Clayton feels most alive when he’s with his grandfather, Cool Papa Byrd, and the band of Bluesmen—he can’t wait to join them, just as soon as he has a blues song of his own. But then the unthinkable happens. Cool Papa Byrd dies, and Clayton’s mother forbids Clayton from playing the blues. And Clayton knows that’s no way to live.

Armed with his grandfather’s brown porkpie hat and his harmonica, he runs away from home in search of the Bluesmen, hoping he can join them on the road. But on the journey that takes him through the New York City subways and to Washington Square Park, Clayton learns some things that surprise him.
07
Even though they were born in different countries, Akilah and Victoria are true best friends. But Victoria has been acting strange ever since she returned from her summer in Nigeria, where she had a special coming-of-age ceremony. Why does proud Victoria, named for a queen, slouch at her desk and answer the teacher's questions in a whisper? And why won't she laugh with Akilah anymore? Akilah's name means "intelligent," and she is determined to find out what's wrong, no matter how much detective work she has to do. But when she learns the terrible secret Victoria is hiding, she suddenly has even more questions. The only problem is, they might not be the kind that have answers. In this groundbreaking novel, Coretta Scott King Honor winner Rita Williams-Garcia uses her vividly realistic voice to explore an often taboo practice that affects millions of girls around the world every year. Readers will identify with headstrong, outspoken Akilah, whose struggle to understand what's happened to Victoria reveals a painful truth in an honest and accessible way.
08
The Barnes & Noble Review


In a beautifully written but hard-hitting tale about the harsh realities of life, African-American author Rita Williams-Garcia offers the elegantly poignant young adult novel Every Time a Rainbow Dies. Sixteen-year-old Thulani has been adrift in his life ever since the death of his mother. But the healing power of love, along with a tragic event and the vagaries of fate, eventually give Thulani's life new meaning and direction.


Living in the Brooklyn brownstone he and his older brother inherited upon their mother's death, Thulani's only interest in life is the pigeons he keeps in a dovecote up on the roof. As much as possible, he ignores his brother's attempts to "man him up" and his pregnant sister-in-law's incessant nagging. He has no direction, no goals, no purpose. But that all changes when he witnesses a vicious rape in the alley below his rooftop. By the time Thulani reaches the girl, her attackers have fled. But instead of the gratitude and relief he expects from her, Thulani is cursed, shunned, and even slapped by the battered girl.



In the weeks that follow, Thulani finds himself obsessing over the girl, whose name, he learns, is Ysa. He follows her during the day to see where she goes and dreams about her at night. It takes weeks before he has the courage to approach her, and his reception is not a warm one. But Thulani is determined and persistent, a trait that eventually wears down Ysa's defenses. Now for the first time since his mother's death, Thulani has something other than his birds that he cares about, but each time happiness seems within his grasp, something happens to take it away from him. Then Thulani's brother makes some decisions that will force Thulani to redirect his entire life. This crisis, combined with his brother's well-meaning but heartbreaking betrayals and the tenuous nature of his relationship with Ysa, teach Thulani how to love, forgive, and stand up for what he believes in.



Every Time a Rainbow Dies isn't always an easy read. A violent rape scene, which is depicted in vivid detail, and some sexual imagery that can, at times, be a bit coarse, dictate caution when considering the book's appropriateness for some YA readers. But although Williams-Garcia offers no illusions about the harsh realities of life, she also does an amazing job of proffering hope where there seemingly is none. For those who don't need their tales sugarcoated, this is a painful but rewarding read.



--Beth Amos

09
Growing up in a city neighborhood, fifteen-year-old Joyce, unsure of herself and not quite comfortable with her maturing body, tries to find a place to belong and a way to express herself through dance.
10
Denzel Watson is a fast talker with a system, and it's made him valedictorian. But when he goes to a summer program at Princeton, he takes a fall. How can he tell his proud family that he won't be able to cut it in the Ivy League? Instead, he spends the rest of the summer selling candy, up against "Top Man" Mello, a drop-out with a police record. For the first time, Denzel is forced to take a hard look at himself -- and how much further he could fall."Williams-Garcia confronts some crucial issues that are generally ignored in YA fiction: issues of class and race, friendship and competition, identity and failure." -- Booklist"Teens everywhere will be able to identify and commiserate with Denzel." School Library Journal, starred review