Cover Image: Libertie


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Member Reviews

Thank you Netgalley, Algonquin Books and Kaitlyn Greenidge for free e-ARC in return of my honest review.

Libertie’s mother wants so much for her daughter, she dreams to work together one day as doctors. She planned it all but forgot to ask what Libertie actually wants.

What a story! A mother- daughter struggle amidst race issues in free Black community in Reconstruction-era Brooklyn. Beautifully constructed characters. Very well written, it charms you so you can’t put it down. It will make you smile, giggle at times and cry your eyes out.

A remarkable book ❤️

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"The only good poem I’ve ever written is you. A daughter is a poem. A daughter is a kind of psalm. You, in the world, responding to me, is a song I made. I cannot make another."

It's the 19th century. Libertie and her mother Cathy live in Brooklyn, where the woman runs a hospital for women. Libertie's mother is a free-born black woman and, due to not being particularly black, she had managed to enroll into a medical college before the faculty discovered her origins. In Brooklyn she is not only a doctor, but she also runs a clandestine business that helps black people escape from slavery. Raised by this extraordinary and incredibly strong woman, Libertie tries to find her place in the world, between society's judgment and her mother's ambitions.

I think this novel is extremely interesting, because it is a hymn to freedom and ordinariness. We often find tales of extraordinary people, but few of people who simply want to live a quiet and ordinary existence. At the same time, however, Libertie is not a girl who lowers her head and suffers in silence, she is always restless and in search of herself and cannot accept a place in the world that she has not created for herself. In fact, whenever she gets dragged by the tide and takes the path that others want to impose on her, she always finds herself going back and changing direction. As an absolutely normal and ordinary character, she is flawed and she makes mistakes to find her own path, like any young person who - even today - feels a bit lost facing the future.

"I cannot think of a greater freedom than raising you."

Another interesting aspect of this novel is the concept of motherhood, as the highest form of freedom. Interesting, first of all, because motherhood is often defined as a - more or less great - form of slavery, while here it is seen as a mutual liberation and adoration. Motherhood and the relationship between Libertie and her mother is one of the themes at the center of the novel and the one that perhaps takes the most space in the story. Libertie lives in the shadow of her mother, who sees in her a bright future and an example for future generations. But Libertie, who has worked with her mother since she was 13, no longer wants to get involved with anatomy and body fluids, she wants to find her path that she feels will be far from hospital's rooms. The protagonist is much more interested in poetry and music, in the words of hymns and in the way the two harmonious voices of Louisa and Experience, alas the Graces, two girls she met at university and who hide a forbidden love for that time , blend together and raise the spirit to heaven.

Hymns are a topic on which the author has done a lot of research and that are essential in the novel, as they mark the rhythm of the story. Also thanks to this rhythm given by the hymns, the author's style is extremely evocative and lyrical and the story transports the reader through America and Haiti, dealing with important and painful historical moments in black history.

All in all, this story that bases its characters on the figure of Susan Smith McKinney-Steward and her daughter Anna has certainly opened a new page of historical novels and I really recommend it.

I would like to thank Algonquin Books and Netgalley for sending me an arc copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

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The central aspect I enjoyed about the story was the characters and their relationships. Libertie is a beautiful character and a fantastic role model. She learns from her mistakes and becomes brave, even if it means coming out of her comfort zone. I loved reading through her various stages in life and thought the author poignantly wrote her. Moreover, I loved her friendship with Louisa and Experience. The three of them share an incredible bond, and I enjoyed their scenes.

Similarly, I also felt the author portrayed Libertie’s relationship with Emmanuel realistically. They both have striking personalities, and it was interesting to see how they would get along. Also, even Libertie’s conflicting relationship with her mother was a highlight, and I thought the author wrote their progress creatively through their letter correspondence.

Furthermore, the author also writes the tale personally where you feel like you are with the characters in the 1800s. The author covers so many topics, from racism to freedom, including mental health. I was glued to the pages right from the beginning when they save Mr. Ben and how Libertie learns more about her mother’s practice. Each chapter was like reading a different passage of Libertie’s life, which made it feel like I was reading a collection of her short stories. The story gets interesting when Libertie spends time with the Gradys. However, my favorite part of the tale was when she moves to Haiti with Emmanuel and faces hostility from the family members, particularly Ella.

Overall, I thought “Libertie” was a beautiful historical fiction, and I would recommend it if you are in the book for a powerful read with a strong female protagonist!

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Libertie Sampson has grown up in Brooklyn, living in awe of her mother's ability to heal physical maladies. The country is at a crucial juncture, with the Civil War winding down, and the Reconstruction Era winding up. Libertie's mother is able to get by as a physician because she passes as white, but Libertie cannot. This means that when Libertie is old enough, she must be sent to medical school in Ohio. Yet, Libertie has over the years grown somewhat disillusioned by the appeal of medicine. For all the patients whose wounds her mother could heal, the mental scars of slavery, torture, and loss marred their lives still. For Libertie, music brought her soul to life, and that is when she felt most free. Yet, even at university, Libertie is unable to explore her love for music, or succeed in medicine as her mother wished. Upon returning home to Brooklyn, Libertie meets a man from Haiti who promises her a life of equality and freedom in his home country. Can Libertie find the liberty she craves in a world that looks down on her for being born just as she is?

I appreciated the historical aspects of this story, particularly that it was based on a black doctor that lived during the Reconstruction Era, whose daughter's life did have some similarities to Libertie. Yet, Libertie is her own person, and the relationship between her and her mother is complicated and strained by the differences in their personalities, and between what Libertie's mother believes will provide security for her daughter, and Libertie's desire to place freedom and authenticity over constrained security. I thought the examination of colorism at different points was keen, looking at what colorism looked like both inside and outside of the black community.

I think that it was critical to Libertie's character that she placed the health of the soul over the health of the body, in the sense that she felt like medicine wasn't worth her life's efforts if it couldn't heal the ailments of past trauma. I felt like the first half of the story was stronger than the latter half, but this is an interesting look at the Reconstruction era, colorism, what it means to be free, and the lasting impact of hateful acts on families and communities. Libertie is recommended for readers who have struggled with parental expectations, who have chafed at cultural norms, who are interested in life in and around the Reconstruction era, who are interested in matters of equality and freedom, or who wonder what it means to find liberation in a world that never expects, or wants, you to find it.

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Libertie is historical fiction book. It follows Libertie the daughter of a black doctor in a town of free blacks in Brooklyn. It's set during the time of slavery, parts of the underground railroad, civil war and shows how blacks worked so hard to make a good life for themselves.

Libertie's Mama shows her patients more affection than Libertie. Libertie even devises a way to make herself sick so her mom will show she cares. Libertie let's people walk over her as she follows their lead. She goes to college to be a doctor just because it's what her mother wants. She even enters a marriage where she thinks she will be free but ends up being subordinate to her husband and the men in Haiti instead of making choices for herself.

I love how the book show's Libertie's struggle to find her voice. I'm so glad she finally finds it. She's such a smart woman that deserves to speak up.
This book was written beautifully. I felt transported to the time period and really came to care a lot about Libertie and the characters in the book.

I think the book has a good parallel to the way nation of America has struggled and is still struggling to give all people a voice. I hope we let more and more people find it.

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I was intrigued by Libertie's synopsis when Algonquin Books sent me the book tour invite. The Reconstruction-era in Brooklyn is something that interests me. In general, American history is something that I would love to explore, to learn more about this country from #OwnVoices authors like Kaitlyn Greenidge.

The story followed Libertie and her relationship with her mom. Coming from a free-born Black family, a young Libertie couldn't understand her mom's job, waking up the "dead bodies" in their house. Her mom expected Libertie to follow her path to be a doctor. She taught Libertie homeopathy and sent Libertie to a college. Little did her mom know, Libertie had a different dream than becoming a doctor.

The first half of the book was my favorite when I learned about Libertie and her mom helping the free Black community in their neighborhood. It was very satisfying because the story was inspired by the real-life doctor, Dr. Susan Smith McKinney Steward.

The last part of the book was about Libertie moving to Haiti after agreeing to marry a Haitian doctor who was her mom's student. She learned a different kind of freedom as a Black woman in New York versus in Haiti. She wanted equality in her marriage but was disappointed by the Haitian wifehood reality.

The story touched great topics, such as slavery, colorism, feminism, freedom, motherhood, religion, etc. Although I couldn't connect to Libertie's character through her entire journey, I could see the author put effort into combining the actual events with her fictional characters. Women's freedom is always a challenging topic to discuss, regardless of era, culture, and race.

Thank you to Algonquin Books for the #gifted book in exchange for an honest review.

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what i liked:
* good storytelling
* the exploration of mother daughter relationships, especially within the context of the time period [during the time Black enslavement in America was “ending”] and these characters being Black women
* the self-exploration that can or can’t happen depending on the circumstances of one’s life
* the focus on how men making decisions on behalf of women always results in their own undoing

what i thought could have made it better:
* there was just a lot of moving pieces and none of them received enough attention or exploration; this almost could have been a series
* i still feel like i don’t know who Libertie is, which is maybe the point?
* i didn’t really understand the faux love story at all or why Emanuel was seemingly such a good guy but then turned out not to be at all
* i thought this book was going to be about a mother daughter badass duo providing women access to health care and knowledge about their own bodies and childbirth and it really wasn’t about that

overall, i enjoyed this book and would recommend it but it’s not a book that blew me away.

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I enjoyed this black historical fiction. The way the author sets the scene using facts of the first black doctor in upstate NY was well done. The history in this book is rich!!! Grappling with colorism was well done.
My biggest angst, was the plot dragged at times. I understand it was necessary to give back story but at times it was just to much. However, the mother/daughter dynamic was spot and helped the plot along. I would recommend to a friend.

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LIBERTIE follows a young woman coming of age, making mistakes, and finding her own path. This novel is historical fiction and well researched. Libertie, her mom, and other characters don't feel dated and are very relatable.

If you would like to read about a complicated mother and daughter relationship, medical practices in the 1800s, and what it means to be truly free, pick up Libertie today.


Thank you to @algonquinbooks for gifting me an e-arc of LIBERTIE by @kaitlyn_greenidge_author #netgalley

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I was very excited for Libertie as a fan of historical fiction and given its early praise. Libertie is an incredibly intimate coming-of-age story, full of personal reflections. It's much more about lyrical writing and quiet ponderings than plot, which will appeal to some readers but unfortunately, I found it slow and uninteresting. I appreciated its coverage of complex themes including racial identity, colorism, freedom, and mother/daughter relationships but found the characters flat and unlikable. It's largely about Libertie's fight to shape her future, but I didn't really care or become invested in her story.

I wasn't always clear on what Libertie was thinking or feeling, which isn't great for a story told in first person. I also felt like certain details were skipped and I often wondered if I missed them (perhaps because I wasn't as engaged as I had hoped) or if they truly weren't mentioned. Libertie made a comment about being away from her mother because she was too much of a coward to tell her the truth. But I thought she had told her the truth, so I wasn't sure what I was missing. There were moments where I wasn't sure if Libertie was lying to herself or truly believed something, like when she said if she obeyed her husband she would become the woman he believes she is. Is that even what she wanted? For a book that's so introspective I found her thoughts muddled and puzzling rather than providing opportunities to connect with her.

What I did appreciate were the themes and the writing itself, which was often quite beautiful or thought provoking. It also had a killer first line. However, I couldn't get past the slow plot, confusing moments, and characters that never took hold of my heart or captivated me.

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Great book - I requested for background reading for a review on BookBrowse which is posted at (and links were sent to you a week or so ago:

Beyond the Book:

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A lyrical coming of age story exploring life for a free born Black girl in the Reconstruction era. Libertie’s life has been shaped by her mother’s work as a physician. And she fears her future will be shaped by her mother’s wishes for her as well. A charming young doctor from Haiti promises a different path. But does either offer the freedom she craves?

I enjoyed the first half of this book, but struggled with the second. As Libertie struggles to adapt to life in Haiti, the pace of the narrative slows. Although the writing is stellar throughout, it’s strongest when directly examining the mother-daughter relationship.

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“Libertie” by Kaityln Greenidge hooked me into the story right away but then didn’t deliver an engaging plot to keep me furiously turning pages. The opening chapters left me on the edge of my seat. I enjoyed the descriptions of the mother’s job and the daughter’s observations. As the story went on though, the character driven plot became a bit bogged down for my taste and didn’t have enough action. I did however like that it was a different time period than what I usually read and provided a different look into that period.

Thank you to the publisher for the gifted copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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So many people hyped Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge before I picked it up (Roxane Gay! Oprah!) that I went in with fairly high expectations and...

I ended up not finishing it. I rarity for me, but it does happen. In this particular case though I truly think I was simply not the right reader for this book and that others will LOVE it.

Despite being very intrigued by the novel loosely following Susan Smith McKinney Steward, the first Black woman to earn a medical degree, I found the plot too meandering and the historical fiction combined with magical realism just wasn’t for me (both are things I enjoy separately though 🤷🏻‍♀️).

I can’t emphasize enough though, in this case, don’t take my word for it.

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I'm not quite sure how I feel about Libertie. I finished it, but I'm not sure I truly grasped what the story was all about. The prose was easy to read. The world was beautifully written. I felt empathy for Libertie (and annoyance) with her. But I'm not sure I understood the message the author was trying to convey. Perhaps after I sit with it for awhile or encounter other readers, it will come to light. But right now, I'm caught between like and dislike.

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Libertie is a coming of age story set in reconstruction-era New York. Libertie is a Black girl who is being raised by her widowed mother. Her mother is a doctor and early feminist who wants Libertie to follow in her footsteps.

I really loved the first half of Libertie. Libertie and her mother had a very interesting relationship and I could have read so much more about it.
I also really enjoyed Libertie when she was off at college; making friends and trying to find herself.
The second half when Libertie gets married, lost me. There is a sudden high level of open door steam that I wasn't expecting and really felt uncomfortable with.

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Kaitlyn Greenidge's Libertie has its origins in the story of a Black, female doctor, working in a northern Black community during the civil war. Libertie doesn't, however, focus on this woman—or a fictional version of her. It focuses, instead, on Libertie, the imagined daughter of such a women: young, angry, intelligent, unwilling to give herself over to anyone's expectations, living a life that offers her freedoms unusual for a girl of her time but also places significant limitations on her.

The characters of Libertie and her physician mother are interesting, but what really drove the book for me were the conflicts and challenges facing free Blacks during this period. In what ways are Blacks born into freedom able to understand the lives and experiences of Blacks born into slavery? How does color—degree of lightness or darkness—affect the opportunities open to individuals? Is it a betrayal if Libertie's mother also accepts white women as patients and hangs a curtain dividing the waiting room to keep the two groups of women separate? In what ways do men fail to see them limitations placed on women at that time, even men who believe they're committed to an equal partnership? These questions also extend beyond the border of the U.S. What are the relative values of staying in the U.S. to fight for rights or moving elsewhere—to Haiti or Liberia—to build a Black nation? And to what extent would such a nation offer real equality to its different castes of citizens?

I began reading Libertie for the narrative, but what really propelled me through the novel were the questions it forced me to reckon with. One can read Libertie as a semi-romantic historical novel, but one can also read it as an invitation to imagine and weigh the social conflicts and challenges of another time.

I received a free electronic review copy of this title from the publisher; the opinions are my own.

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From the moment I saw the cover of this book I was drawn in and wanted to know more about the wonders held within the pages of Libertie. What I found was a beautiful and powerful story of a young girl transitioning to adulthood and her struggles to understand life and love and her mother. We travel from Brooklyn to a free Black college in Ohio to Haiti, a journey unlike any other. The themes and cultural issues shown in Libertie are plenty and leave the reader thinking about race, family, misogyny, patriarchy. Kaitlyn Greenidge is a passionate writer and weaves a beautiful tale with Libertie. If you’re looking for your next mind blowing historical fiction read, this is it.

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I enjoyed this book. It was informative and I learnt alot about what people went through during this time. I liked the fact that its inspired by a real person as well so that was amazing. I love Libertie as a character she goes through a lot in her life and I really felt for her trying to get her husbands family to like her as well and navigating her mothers disapproval at leaving for Hati with her Husband.

The writing style I liked as well the description of sex at the time could of been better I did cringe while reading those parts.

I think the issues in this book were written well. And I think this book should be taught in school as well.

Really enjoyable read and a diffrent read for me

Will Read more from Kaitlyn Greenidge in the future.

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The book is about mothers and daughters. It’s told from the point of view of Libertie, the daughter. Her mother was born free and so light skinned she passed for white, although she never tried to, and went to college to become a doctor. Soon the civil war is here, then gone and Libertie is now a teenager and asks her mother too many questions for her mother’s comfort.

The push and pull between parent and child is evident throughout the book, as well as freedom, liberty, and perhaps the pursuit of one’s own happiness. Liberties is being trained and educated to follow her mother’s path of being a doctor, but she doesn’t have the passion. Her real passion is to be close to her mother.

There is so much more going on in this book. Certainly this could be one to garner more out of a second, or third reading. There are layers of meaning and imagery, and a focus on the gods of Africa and Christianity. Of the many themes within the book the one that was most direct and spoke to me was the mother-daughter relationship. The misunderstanding of each other, of the generational differences, and sadly, the feeling of not being what the other wants or needs.

This would be a great book for a reading group or discussion.

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