Cover Image: Libertie

Libertie

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Member Reviews

A young black woman fights against her desire to please her visionary physician mother and her need to live her own life. Set in the years before, during and after the Civil War, Libertie explores racism, colorism, and classism.
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Kaitlyn Greenidge’s Libertie is a thoroughly engrossing narrative in a richly created world. The title character, Libertie, demonstrates curiosity, vulnerability, and an enduring resistance that serve as both the engines of the plot and the tools of resolution in a way that is incredibly satisfying. The weight of expectation that Libertie feels as the daughter of a Black female doctor through the years of the Civil War and beyond—to follow in her mother’s footsteps—is drawn with exactness, and the ways in which Libertie pushes back against those expectations (even to the point of leaving college) adds complexity to the character. Libertie cannot be reduced to a symbol, and the missteps she makes because of her strained relationship with her mother are immensely human. Greenidge’s text plays with the characters’ various kinds of naivete and jadedness in ways that put characters with intense emotional ties and affections at odds with each other—it’s masterfully done. 

The secondary characters who populate the book’s world—from Ben Daisy to Libertie’s school friends to Emmanuel’s household in Haiti—add further depth and complication. Libertie’s longing for a sense of belonging cannot penetrate her friends’ paired-off state, solidified not only by their musical talents but their romantic relationship; Libertie’s Americanness sets her at odds with the status quo in Haiti, and even where she seems to seek an ally in the housekeeper of her husband’s father’s household, the connections remain unsettled. The shifting lonelinesses, the push and pull of dissatisfaction that ripples around the edges not only of Libertie’s primary relationships but also her secondary relationships, keeps the novel moving forward.

A note regarding my Netgalley text: There were some missing words in the copy I received. These seemed to be mostly confined to the beginnings of paragraphs/beginnings of sections. I do not think this significantly impacted my broad understanding of the work, but it did impede clarity from time to time. Most often, the first letter of a word remained (though the word did not), which helped to clarify if a passage was beginning with a character’s name.
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"Libertie", the incredible novel from the brilliant Kaitlyn Greenidge, is set in the time prior to, during, and directly after the US Civil War. It was arguably the worst of times when slavery was the top issue of the day with family members willing to kill each other over its continuation or abolition. Escapes from bondage were acts of desperation, as were slaughters and lynchings when escaped slaves were found. Some made it through due to the heroic acts of Abolitionists along the Underground Railroad. 

Life in the North was desired, but far from settled. Those that had made it from slavery carried an awful burden, both physical, but more debilitatingly, mental. There were few medical professionals that had any understanding about how to make people whole. Libertie's mother was one of them. She is one of the very first female, Black doctors. She is 100% dedicated. She is broken and flawed as a Mother.

"Libertie" takes us and her from Brooklyn to an HBCU in Ohio and eventually to Haiti. Her journey is intense and complex. It is all very different from what I expected, which is a very good thing. "Libertie" is about racism at a systemic and fundamental level. It is about "religion", both the ritualized Western religion that has come to dominate, and the African mysticism that followed the slave boats both to North America and the islands, particularly Haiti. It is about sexism and abuse, especially the Patriarchy. It is about science and the healing arts, gender, and betrayal.

"Libertie" is profoundly sad, but hopeful. It needs to be read.

Thanks to Algonquin Books and NetGalley for the dARC.
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It took me a while to read this book because I didn't want it to end. The liberation of Black women: Who defines it? How do we achieve? Does it look the same for every Black woman? Although set in a different time period, the author did such an amazing job on character development and story-telling, that I felt like it could be written today. I still don't have the words to process what this book means to me, a dark-skinned Black girl who has gone against all of the standards of my family and society, that's still searching for true liberation.
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I loved this book! The characters and the interaction between mother and daughter was terrific. I thought the way that culture played into the generations was great. The daughter did not understand where the mothers ideas came from until she was almost a mother herself! It's interesting to learn the difference between countries as well. In Haiti women are viewed and treated differently than in America. And freedom to one person is very different than freedom to another. I gave it 5 stars but when the final edit is done it will definitely be rated much higher!
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In 17th century Boston, an independent, free thinking woman is a dangerous creature. Mary Deerfield is a beautiful young woman, but she’s married to a monster. Thomas Deerfield is a drunken, abusive lout, and when he stabs Mary with a fork, she vows to divorce him. But in a time when people are looking around every corner for witches and the devil himself, Mary, with her ideas of independence and refusal to follow her neighbors’ blind hysteria, is dangerous. She is a woman who must be destroyed
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