Last Summer On State is a must-have addition to the Black girl coming-of-age literary canon. The story follows a 12-year-old girl named FeFe who lives in Chicago’s Robert Taylor Homes. Fefe lives in the 4950 building– which is the last Robert Taylor Home left standing. Residents of Robert Taylor are eagerly awaiting their vouches so that they can relocate because the city of Chicago has started its gentrification process with its public housing residents. For years, the projects have occupied prime-time real estate on State Street which is one of the major streets on the southside.
Fefe takes us on an emotional journey where she and her friends try to stay together but grow apart due to their own situations. When Fefe decides to bring another young girl into their circle, things seem to go downhill. The girl they hesitantly befriend is the daughter of a drug addict who abandons her daughter frequently. Fefe has another friend that her mother and close neighbor friend warns her about, too. But Fefe has a heart of gold and doesn’t want to judge people based on their family’s reputation, even though the family has a long history of crime.
Despite the vivid crime and abuse that Fefe sees, it doesn’t break her. It gives her hope. In the quiet mornings when all the gang violence ceases, she goes to church with her devout Christian friend and finds solace in the church. She has faith that she will survive the Robert Taylor Homes even though she knows it is part of her identity. She sees firsthand how the projects can break people while she also realizes the government doesn’t care about poor, Black folks no matter what their political affiliation might be.
If you love historical fiction, especially dramas about family, gentrification and faith, this book is for you. While it has violent topics and experiences it is completely authentic. It will transform you back to 1999 and if you lived in Chicago or any hood during that time you will be able to relate to Fefe and her friends.