The critically acclaimed and Whiting Award-winning author of We Love You, Charlie Freeman returns with Libertie, an unforgettable story about one young Black girl's attempt to find a place where she can be fully, and only, herself.
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Coming of age in a free Black community in Reconstruction-era Brooklyn, Libertie Sampson is all too aware that her purposeful mother, a practicing physician, has a vision for their future together: Libertie is to go to medical school and practice alongside her. But Libertie, drawn more to music than science, feels stifled by her mother's choices and is hungry for something else--is there really only one way to have an autonomous life? And she is constantly reminded that, unlike her light-skinned mother, Libertie will not be able to pass for white. When a young man from Haiti proposes to Libertie and promises she will be his equal on the island, she accepts, only to discover that she is still subordinate to him and all men. As she tries to parse what freedom actually means for a Black woman, Libertie struggles with where she might find it--for herself and for generations to come.
Inspired by the life of one of the first Black female doctors in the United States and rich with historical detail, Kaitlyn Greenidge's new and immersive novel will resonate with readers eager to understand our present through a deep, moving, and lyrical dive into our past.
Kaitlyn Greenidge's debut novel, We Love You, Charlie Freeman, was one of the New York Times Critics' Top 10 Books of 2016 and a finalist for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize. She is a contributing writer for the New York Times and the features director at Harper's Bazaar, and her writing has also appeared in Vogue, Glamour, the Wall Street Journal, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of a Hodder Fellowship from Princeton University's Lewis Center for the Arts, as well as fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Whiting Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, Substack, and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Greenidge lives in Massachusetts. Her second novel, Libertie, is available now.
"Few novels have as strong a sense of place as this fascinating blend of magical realism and African American historical fiction by the author of We Love You, Charlie Freeman (2016) . . . Greenidge succeeds beautifully at presenting the complexities of an intense mother-daughter bond, with its blend of unrealistic expectations, disappointments, and betrayals. At the same time, the historical context of traumatized escaped slaves, race riots, colorism, and conflicting visions on how to achieve Black freedom (stay in the U.S. and fight, or build an all-Black civilization abroad?) weaves the story of one family into the larger tragedy of the African diaspora. Greenidge creates a richly layered tapestry of Black communal life, notably Black female life, and the inevitable contradictions and compromises of 'freedom.'" - Booklist
"Greenidge delivers another genius work of radical historical fiction . . . This pièce de résistance is so immaculately orchestrated that each character, each setting, and each sentence sings." - Publishers Weekly
"The question of freedom in all its varied senses weave throughout this stunning historical novel . . . This engaging novel immerses readers in a world rich with historical detail that brings to life lesser-known aspects of post-Civil War American history, such as Black women in medicine and the relationship between Haiti and the United States. This will appeal to teenage fans of adult authors like Toni Morrison, Brit Bennett, and Yaa Gyasi." - School Library Journal
"Powerful . . . Themes of colorism, identity, communities among women, and wrestling over life decisions result in an engaging portrait of growing up. In the memorable historical novel Libertie, a young woman struggles with her mother and questions what freedom means to her." - Foreword Reviews
"A gorgeously affecting story." - Shelf Awareness
"Fiercely compelling, and told in a singular, lyrical voice, Libertie is a novel that lives in a specific historical time--the Reconstruction Era--but offers insight into the very modern struggles that still exist surrounding identity, family, love, and freedom . . . This is a novel of struggle and triumph, exhaustion and perseverance, rooted in history, but transcendent of it; another masterwork by Kaitlyn Greenidge." - Refinery29
"Libertie is epic yet engaging, and gorgeously written." - The Rumpus
"Greenidge explores issues that are still real today while also inviting readers into historical moments that will be new to many. Just as colorism shapes Libertie's relationships with Black people, classism does, too. There are fine distinctions between those who stole themselves away to freedom and those who were born to it, those who work for themselves and those who work for others . . . [She] shows us aspects of history we seldom see in contemporary fiction." - Kirkus Reviews
"Kaitlyn Greenidge's historical fiction unites the African diaspora. Libertie is a feat of monumental thematic imagination . . . Greenidge both mines history and transcends time, centering her post-Civil-War New York story around an enduring quest for freedom . . . The sheer force of Greenidge's vision for [Libertie], for us all, gives us hope that it won't be long now." - Margaret Wilkerson Sexton, The New York Times Book Review
"Stunning." - Adrienne Gaffney, The New York Times
"With Libertie . . . Greenidge is making a stylistic leap with an intricately researched and lushly imagined coming-of-age story set in 19th-century Brooklyn and Jacmel, Haiti . . . Both epic and intimate." - Alexandra Alter, The New York Times
"Spectacular . . . A revelatory and enchanting piece of historical fiction." - BuzzFeed
"This immersive story is a soaring exploration of what 'freedom' truly means. Libertie is an elegantly layered, beautifully rendered tour de force that is not to be missed." - Roxane Gay
"Motherhood offers [Libertie] the type of freedom that Toni Morrison spoke of--freedom from others' control over her and from the expectations of who she should become. With its connections to a history that's illuminated more and more each passing day, Libertie is a superb novel that informs the present and perhaps even the future." - BookPage
"Greenidge's immersive story . . . heralds a blossoming literary career." - Bethanne Patrick, Los Angeles Times
"From the first page, Greenidge catapults us into a masterfully crafted story in which the possibilities, limitations and shifting contours of freedom for Black people take center stage. Inspired by the true story of Susan Smith McKinney Steward, the first Black woman to become a doctor in the state of New York, and her daughter, Greenidge breathes powerful life into this lesser-known history. She conjures a fiercely gorgeous, complex portrait of life for Black women during the Reconstruction era. It is a story that's at once politically weighted and intimately resonant . . . Greenidge perfectly weds the precision of historical details and context with fantastical elements of myth and magic to illuminate the enduring questions: What does freedom mean for Black girls and women? What does it look, smell, feel, sound and taste like? Libertie is a beautifully written meditation on Black liberation and imagination. It is exquisite historical fiction that lovingly reminds us to reassess our own present-day commitments to fighting for, and practicing, freedom." - Ms. magazine