I saw my mother raise a man from the dead. “It still didn’t help him much, my love”, she told me. But I saw her do it all the same. That’s how I knew she was magic.
A breathtaking work of historical fiction set in Reconstruction-era Brooklyn, Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge is inspired by the daughter of Susan Smith McKinney Steward. The latter was the first Black woman to become a doctor in New York State in the 1870s. In her interview with the New York Times, the author said “So much of Black history is focused on exceptional people. Part of what I wanted to explore is, what’s the emotional and psychological toll of being an exception, of being exceptional, and also, what about the people who just want to have a regular life and find freedom and achievement in being able to live in peace with their family — which is what Libertie wants?”
As we come to the end of Women’s History Month, Libertie is the perfect book to celebrate womanhood, mother-daughter relationship, and above all, freedom. It is out on Tuesday, March 30th, 2021.
Coming of age as a free-born Black girl in Reconstruction-era Brooklyn, Libertie Sampson was all too aware that her purposeful mother, a practicing physician, had a vision for their future together: Libertie would 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 mother who can pass, Libertie has skin that is too dark. 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 novel resonates in our times and is perfect for readers of Brit Bennett, Min Jin Lee, and Yaa Gyasi.Inspired by the life of one of the first Black female doctors in the United States. Book Spotlight – Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge @algonquinbooks @surlybassey #Libertie Click To Tweet
“This is one of the most thoughtful and amazingly beautiful books I’ve read all year. Kaitlyn Greenidge is a master storyteller.”
— Jacqueline Woodson, author of Red at the Bone
“Pure brilliance. So much will be written about Kaitlyn Greenidge’s Libertie—how it blends history and magic into a new kind of telling, how it spins the past to draw deft circles around our present—but none of it will measure up to the singular joy of reading this book.”
— Mira Jacob, author of Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations
“In this singular novel, Kaitlyn Greenidge confronts the anonymizing forces of history with her formidable gifts. Libertie is a glorious, piercing song for the ages—fierce, brilliant, and utterly free.”
— Brandon Taylor, author of Real Life
“I want to say that Kaitlyn Greenidge’s Libertie is a glorious diasporic literary song, but the novel is so much more than that. A book so deeply invested in the politics and place of silence is one of the most melodious books I’ve read in decades. The ambition in Libertie is only exceeded by Greenidge’s skill. This is it.”
— Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy
“Kaitlyn Greenidge has built a lush, imaginative novel, as dark and beautiful as its namesake yet as relevant today as during its 19th-century setting. I didn’t want it to end, and I fear that any attempt to render its complexity with brevity equals a failure to capture the book’s vast depth and its conversation with so many other important historical and literary works. A page turner and a gorgeous winner.”
— Nafissa Thompson-Spires, author of Heads of the Colored People
“The voice that fuels this novel is rooted in the body and rises toward myth, forged of history, ocean salt, iron, and hope. With Libertie, Kaitlyn Greenidge adds an indelible new sound to American literature, and confirms her status as one of our most gifted young writers.”
— Garth Greenwell, author of What Belongs to You and Cleanness
“This is a historical novel, a magical novel, a familial novel, a Bildungsroman—a work that defies simple categorization. The complexities herein signify an important writer throwing all her talents and brilliance on the page, offering us more than we deserve. Reading Libertie can feel like reading Toni Morrison. Such a comparison, however, is a disservice to Kaitlyn Greenidge, who is an original light, a writer to emulate, a master of the craft, and a mind we’re fortunate to have living among us.”
— Gabriel Bump, author of Everywhere You Don’t Belong
“Libertie is a bildungsroman for America in the 21st century, providing us with a spiritual education we sorely need. What is care and what is poison? Where does life end? Where does liberty begin? By creating Libertie—a 19th century “black gal,” a modern existential heroine—Greenidge has resurrected more than an ancestor—she has revived the anger and the love, the grief and the pride, and, above all, the fierce need for freedom that still drive our nation today.”
— C. Morgan Babst, author of The Floating World
About Kaitlyn Greenidge:
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 her writing has also appeared in Vogue, Glamour, the Wall Street Journal, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of fellowships from the Whiting Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Greenidge lives in Brooklyn, New York.
I would like to thank Algonquin Books for providing a digital copy of the book for the blog tour. All opinions are my own.
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