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After spending the summer in Oakland, California, with their mother and the Black Panthers, Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern arrive home with a newfound streak of independence. That doesn't sit well with Big Ma, who doesn't like the way things are changing.
Neither does Delphine. Pa has a new girlfriend. Uncle Darnell comes home from Vietnam, but he's not the same. And her new sixth-grade teacher isn't the fun, stylish Miss Honeywell—it's Mr. Mwila, a stern exchange teacher from Zambia.
But the one thing that doesn't change during this turbulent year is the advice that Delphine receives from her mother, who reminds her not to grow up too fast. To be eleven while she can.