Cover Image: Libertie


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I ultimately had to DNF this book 36% in. As I tried to get into the book, it felt like I wasn't reading what was advertised.

The thing that bothered me the most about the story is aging. For a synopsis to highlight a girl trying to get away from an expectant medical career by marrying someone from the islands, I would assume that this girl is older than an adolescent. I understand building a backstory to get to where we are mentally with Libertie, but I feel this portion could have been a quick wrap-up.

I do like the breakdown process of Libertie adoring her magical healing mother to despising her methods and motivations. We see how a watchful kid slowly starts to form her own opinion about the people surrounding her, specifically her mother. She doesn't quite understand everything, but she disagrees with the decisions from what she sees.

Eventually, I'm going to circle back to it because I genuinely hate leaving things incomplete. Other than the grammatical errors of the unfinished copy and the random sentences in a different language (I still don't even know what language it is), the story was okay. I recognize that the author is building towards something; I just couldn't get there with her.

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This novel is a grand exploration of early African Americans study of medicine and the melding of traditional and practical medicine. There are many harsh and though provoking moments in this story that create a new perspective on advancing education and the study of the sciences for newly freed slaves in America.

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I only just finished this, so I haven't fully processed it. The story was so unexpected - I really didn't know which direction it was going to take. Ultimately, I love that this is a story about Libertie's relationship with her mother and how that is bound up with figuring out who she is. The backdrop of violence and discrimination against blacks, both in the U.S. and in Haiti, means that Libertie's attempts to figure out who she is and what freedom means are bound up in racialized histories of oppression.

I think this novel is going to stay with me while I try to figure it out.

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Thank you to NetGalley for an advanced copy of Libertie.

I fell in love with this book based on it's cover and description and couldn't wait to read it. Unfortunately, I very quickly realized that was going to be the peak of excitement with this book. I am halfway through and even that has been a struggle. The first few chapters were interesting but the rest are sluggish and boring. I NEVER stop a book halfway through (I can't remember the last time) but based on many of the reviews I've seen, it's not going to get better. I've been trying to finish this book for weeks and I just . . . don't care. I'm a huge historical fiction fan but there's just nothing happening.

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Ah, mothers. Easy to blame, and often justifiably, but it’s always so much more complicated than daughters anticipate. Not always an excuse, but often an explanation. Kaitlyn Greenidge does a great job of explicating the difficulties between a mother who wants her version of “the best” for her daughter when the two have different ideas of what is the best.

This relationship is explored in the context of the years just before, during, and after the American Civil War, beginning with an eleven-year-old Libertie witnessing her mother’s first failure (at least that’s she’s seen) as a respected doctor, simultaneously becoming cognizant of her mother’s role in assisting people escape from slavery. Libertie is ready to part of the solution, and she resents anyone’s cold shoulder of her mother, even while she feels coldness radiating from her mother.

The evolution from idolizing daughter to a more complex adult is well conceived and believable. Libertie evaluates her mother first from how she is situated within their New York community, populated with many free Blacks, to how her mother is situated in the broader US where whites are openly contemptuous, and then Haiti, where Libertie wrestles with various ideas about what it is to be free and Black.

Among the books I’ve read this year set in this general period with a Black protagonist, this is the first one where the political and racial situation was mostly in the background, although slavery and racism pervade and inform the actions of Libertie as well as others. What would it be like to spend your life free when the color of your skin is the same as that condemning others to slavery? How does it affect your world view when your interactions with whites begin with violence and end in contempt? The different answers to these questions of Libertie and her mother are inseparable from the quality of their relationship.

But instead of directly focusing on slavery and racism as in The Underground Railroad, or even on the social structure of freed blacks, as in The Conductors, Libertie focuses on intimate relationships, first of Libertie and her mother, then of Libertie and her singing friends, then of Libertie and her husband (and his family) in Haiti. Sometimes Libertie and those around her seem to exist in a parallel world where whites are not a factor, but that illusion is sometimes crushed suddenly, and other times the outside world is only visible through the cracks it leaves.

The other theme that’s explored through these relationships is that of colorism. Libertie is darker than her mother, who is light enough to pass, if she should so choose, which she emphatically does not. But Libertie’s life is shaped by that difference in shade, from how she’s perceived by other members of the Black community as well as by whites. It’s a less heavy-handed approach than The Blacker the Berry, yet still manages to make the same basic point of the insidious effects of colorism.

Kaitlyn Greenidge explores all of these issues and relationships with delicately drawn with thoughtful details, and the resulting book is a pleasure to read.

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Kaitlyn Greenidge’s 𝙇𝙞𝙗𝙚𝙧𝙩𝙞𝙚 is a masterful work of art because at once it weaves history, fiction, social critique, magic, and myth that encapsulates the beauty of the Black experience in both America and in Haiti. Although the time frame spans Reconstruction-era Brooklyn, the political and social commentary on race, colorism, and patriarchy are ostensibly relevant to the generations of readers today. Libertie Sampson fights for both her fierce truth and voice to maintain her freedom against the expectations of others working against her: “And the one thing my mother taught me, above all, is to fight for truth when you find it.”

The mother-daughter relationship Greenidge builds throughout creates a wide chasm for the freedom Libertie needs once she retreats from medicine. Love can sometimes function dangerously and harm us even with the best intentions. Dr. Sampson explains: The only good poem I’ve ever written is you. A daughter is a poem. A daughter is a kind of psalm.” Yet, she must give Libertie the freedom to exist on her own. At times, this stifles Libertie’s growth and becoming. Libertie soon realizes “I could not deceive others, and I could not deceive myself.” Nobody has the right to put their expectations onto you—even your mother.

While 𝙇𝙞𝙗𝙚𝙧𝙩𝙞𝙚 advocates for a general freedom for Black people in this America, both past and present, to be free of pain and oppression, the most dire freedom expressed in this novel is the personal freedom to choose how we define ourselves. Dr. Sampson emphasizes: “We cannot live in freedom if we are not well.” Neither her Mama or Emmanuel can provide the freedom in “becoming and knowing thyself” that Libertie so desperately seeks in New York and Haiti. Libertie finds that it is undeniably the freedom of time, of choices, of experiences and life that will show her the whole parts of a Black woman.

We are free to make choices to read books this year and it would be a gross mistake if this one wasn’t on your radar.

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This book was inspired by the life of one of the first Black female doctors in the U.S.; while I usually do not gravitate towards historical fiction novels, this one caught my attention. Libertie is a young free-born Black girl and the daughter of female physician. Libertie’s mother was very fair and light skinned, “light enough to pass” for white. So while she did have some white female patients, none felt comfortable with Libertie assisting her mother since she was more dark skinned like her father. Libertie’s mother did not show her emotion or love in the traditional sense, she taught her the science of being a doctor and sent her off to college and to live with a family that she did not know. It seemed that she wanted more for Libertie, she really wanted to give her a chance at having a better life. While the other girls took ladies’ courses for teaching, Libertie was the only girl taking the men’s courses which included biology and other sciences. After returning home, Libertie falls in love with a young Haitian man that was studying under her mother as a physician. Of course, Libertie’s mother was utterly disappointed that she would choose to marry this man, move away to Haiti, and not finish her studies. Libertie runs into more disappointment and struggles beginning her life with Emmanuel in Haiti. This was a coming of age story that was very hard for to read. There were many of this book that were very slow paced, but then also some parts that I feel could have had more detail like Libertie’s time at the college. I felt like I was constantly reading the book with a look of cringe on my face, I was always waiting for the next bad thing to happen to Libertie. There were hardly any bright moments in her life at all, so this made for a very dreary read. I did have some hopes when she fell in love with Emmanuel and he swept her away from the life with her mother, but that did not work out so well either. I wished there was some translation of the French that was spoken by the Haitian characters, I almost felt like I missed some of the emphasis or relevance of the dialog. This is was a really heavy read, no feel good moments, I finished it feeling very drained. I am not saying that it was a bad read, but not something that I would have usually gone out of my way to pick up.

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Absolutely stunning cover. Unfortunately, that's about all the positive I can say about this book. It starts with a powerful opening, three women bringing a mad back from the (nearly) dead, but falters after that. The pace of the story was slow and plundering. The main character is hard to connect with as she makes stunningly bad decisions for herself. Throughout the novel I kept picturing Libertie as a piece of driftwood, floating along with where ever the current took her, putting up with what ever the sea was doing to her.

Nearly a DNF for me.

Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honesty review.

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I gave up on this one at 45%. I just couldn't get into it. I didn't see where it was going, there wasn't much to the story line to keep me interested. I needed more of a plot or excitement early on to keep me going.

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This is a difficult title to review. The writing was elegant. The concept novel and intriguing. The issues, the places and time were of great interest to me. But yet, the threads of the story didn't come together for me. As another reviewer mentioned, I felt very distant from the characters. They seemed stiff and not fully fleshed out. Thank you for the chance to read this.

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A complicated mother and daughter relationship drives this beautiful coming of age story
I love coming of age stories, and Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge did not disappoint. Set around the US Civil War, the book is the story of Libertie, a free-born black young girl in the 1860s. Inspired by the life of Dr. Susan Smith McKinney Steward, the first black woman to become a medical doctor in New York State, this novel is a story about a mother’s mission to ensure that her daughter lives an exemplary life. It’s also about a daughter’s struggle to break free from her mother’s expectations.

The book is told from Libertie’s perspective. It starts as she watches her mom revive a black man who had been smuggled in a coffin from a slave state into their Kings County home. That is the moment that young Libertie “knew [her mom] was magic.” This experience, and the events that transpired after, caused a lasting impression on young Libertie.

Eventually, we get to know Libertie as an angsty teenager. She is desperately trying to find her own path and veer away from the life her mother planned for her. Their relationship turns adversarial because they are fundamentally so different in so many ways, and they are both too stubborn to recognize it.

Libertie doesn’t understand her mom’s world and doesn’t feel like she belongs there. She craves her mother’s approval and affection and is terrified of showing her hesitation. She is outwardly bold but also secretly insecure.

Her mother, Dr. Sampson, wants Libertie to follow in her footsteps. In her mission to give her daughter the best opportunity for success, she fails to recognize her child’s struggles and denies Libertie’s need for self-determination. It’s the ultimate clash of idealism versus practicality and experience versus innocence. The only way to save their relationship is for both of them to recognize their own shortcomings, but will they?

There is so much more to this story than their adversity
The story of their relationship is multilayered and complex. This book is about expectations, the ones we have for ourselves, the ones our loved ones have for us, and we have for them, and the ones society imposes on us. It’s about different types of feminism and the search for freedom.

This book is also about race, colorism, and religion. The fictional recount that Greenidge creates for us feels so authentic. It transported me to times I did not live and showed me struggles I have not experienced with the most intimate and insightful approach.

Even though this book was set in the 1860s, it’s so modern and relevant. I loved the richness of all the historical and cultural references. Greenidge is skillful and precise with her words and descriptions. This book was a beautiful read. Greenidge has definitely gained a new fan!

Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge is out now.

[Content warning: this book described a scene of suicide and mentions sexual assault.]

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A+ to the audio narrator of this book. When there's singing the narrator sings, the characters are pulled off the page and acted out like you're watching a play while listening. Libertie has been raised by her mother who is the local doctor in a free black community in the 1860's. Libertie sees the struggles other black people have while escaping slavery and seeking freedom in her town. Libertie's mother wants her to be a doctor too and has raised her with the knowledge she holds. Unfortunately Libertie and her mother spend a lot of time talking at each other without really listening to what the individual is saying. Libertie makes choices that disappoints her mother and ultimately drives a wedge between the pair.

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I was hooked by Libertie's opening paragraph. I truly enjoyed Greenidge's writing. I found that the inclusion of poetry, music, and fragments from Libertie's letters added a layer of depth to the story. This is written in lyrical prose and is lovely to read a nuanced mother-daughter relationship while also delving into America's history and navigating issues such as racism, colourism, sexism, grief, and liberty.

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Wow. What a book! I absolutely fell in love with Kaitlyn Greenidge's latest novel, Libertie. First off, that book cover - beautiful! Secondly, the description of the story - sounds like a must-read to me. And, finally, the story itself - terrific! Yep, I truly enjoyed sitting down with a huge cuppa and reading all about Libertie Sampson.

So, what's the story about? Well, its' about race, feminism, history, the mother-daughter relationship, and so much more. This is one book that will draw you in and keep you reading all day and night. It's riveting, fascinating, and thought-provoking. You can't help but befriend the characters and root for them. You want the very best for them, especially Libertie, a young woman who is just trying to figure out what she really wants from the world that seems to be changing all the time. Her mom is a physician and wants Libertie to follow in her footsteps. Libertie loves music and doesn't see "doctor" in her future. What's she to do? Well, fall in love and head to Haiti. Unfortunately, once there, she finds unhappiness instead of happily every after. Her husband's family does not liker her, religion controls everything, women are not treated equally, and her husband seems to support everyone but her. Once again, Libertie must figure out what she wants and what she needs to do for herself and her future. And, that is all I will write about this wonderful story. You must read it for yourself to experience the vivid descriptions, rich historical details, and intriguing storylines. It's most definitely a must-read!

I would happily recommend Libertie to fans of Greenidge's writing and to anyone looking for their next great read - you will LOVE this book!

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An interesting book about free African Americans and Haitians shortly after the Civil War, that gives a refreshing change from the many slave stories.

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I received this novel as an advanced reader copy from net galley in exchange for an honest review. I enjoyed this book and loved the aspects of magical realism. The strong,black female characters were inspirational and relevant to history. Highly recommend this novel.

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Look at me reading historical fiction and loving it! That is something I do not do so you know this book is good! I usually avoid historical fiction because I like more contemporary stories but this one is definitely holding my attention on this early Saturday morning. Wait...why am I up early on a Saturday?

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Libertie Sampson grew up as a free-born Black girl in Reconstruction-era Brooklyn. Her mother is a doctor who can pass as white. Libertie has very dark skin and cannot pass as white.

LIbertie's mom wants her to be a doctor, but she's more drawn to music. She marries a Haitian man and moves to Haiti. Her experience in Haiti was so interesting given the different culture and how religion is viewed. The book examines the different ways people can be racist and even racist against their own race.

There are a lot of important themes in this book. Libertie struggles with colorism. She's darker than both her mother and her husband. She also struggles as a Black woman. She wants to be seen as equal to men.

I particularly appreciated how the author addressed freedom and mental health. Becoming free isn't like flipping a switch to happiness.

I enjoyed this book. There was so much to learn and absorb. I appreciate when I can stand in someone else's shoes and gain an understanding of their perspective.

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Trigger warnings: slavery, racism

Libertie begins with 12-year-old Libertie witnessing a man brought back from the dead. She later realizes her mother and friends helped the man escape slavery by faking his death. Young Libertie dreams of learning all about healing and joining her mothers' practice one day.

When Libertie's mother starts to see patients that are white women, Libertie discovers racism the hard way. Her mother is pale-skinned so the women see her as "not black enough," but Libertie is dark-skinned like her father and is told not to touch the patients.

When Libertie is older, she travels west to attend medical school. The school is black-owned and taught, with programs in law, medicine, teaching, and music. Libertie begins her scientific studies but quickly finds she is more drawn to two female music students than to medicine. She begins to realize that she is her own person, and her dreams and her mothers' may be different.

Libertie deals with jealousy as her mother writes of a new apprentice at her practice, and she also must navigate other students' feelings towards her because she was born free while most others were born enslaved. As Libertie's story continues, she deals with being "other" and feeling alone while surrounded by people.

Recommended for historical fiction readers looking for diverse perspectives.

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Beautiful written and a fascinating topic. The character development felt somewhat "remote", which made it
difficult to engage with some of the material. The author should be commended for tackling something which
i've not yet seen in US literature.

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