Local auther Summer Brenner has been presented with a Partners in Preservation Award for her book Oakland Tales, Lost Secrets of the Town.
Brenner’s 2009 book, Richmond Tales, Lost Secrets of the Iron Triangle, created a community-wide conversation about literacy and reading and spawned an annual Richmond Tales Festival and full-scale theatrical production. The book was embraced by thousands of young readers, their families, and teachers.
Based on the success of Richmond Tales, Brenner sought funding for a similar book in a nearby city. The Rogers Family Foundation provided seed money for research and development, and the San Francisco Foundation and Rex Foundation provided funds for writing and production of Oakland Tales. The book was published in spring of 2014 and adopted into the "common core" curriculum for Oakland middle schools.
The novel takes a unique approach to making history come alive for young people. The narrative time travels from present-day Oakland to an Ohlone village, the Peralta rancho, 1906 industrial Oakland, World War II, and the Black Panther Community School, looking at history through the eyes of teen protagonists, citing familiar street names and places, and meeting young people in different eras. The book also includes an appendix for further exploration.
The purpose of the book is to connect young people to the place they live, inspire them to identify themselves in the continuum of history, envision a blueprint of the future, and catalyze discussions about cultural diversity, social hierarchy, and historical legacies. While the book addresses social challenges of parent incarceration, deportation, and street violence, it is filled with hope, asking readers to consider: "If a place was different in the past, can it be different in the future, too?"
Like Richmond Tales, the book has graduated from the written page to live performance. To date, theatrical presentations have taken place at Edna Brewer Middle School, co-directed by SF's Word for Word theater company; Skyline High School, co-directed by Word for Word; and at the Bay Area Book Festival. Brenner has visited schools and libraries, and is collaborating with the Oakland Museum of California to develop a docent's tour.