A Times Book of the Month
May 2021 Book of the Month for Roxane Gay’s Book Club
‘A feat of monumental thematic imagination’ – The New York Times
Coming of age as a free-born Black girl in Brooklyn after the Civil War, 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.
‘A soaring exploration of what “freedom” truly means … an elegantly layered, beautifully rendered tour de force that is not to be missed’ – Roxane Gay
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 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 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 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 Wielding both her knowledge of our history and her incredible sense of story, Kaitlyn Greenidge further establishes herself as one of the sharpest minds working today. Libertie is a novel of epic power and endless grace. -- Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, author of Friday Black Kaitlyn Greenidge is one of my favorite contemporary minds, and I love her essays and newsletter, but WOW, it is such a pleasure to read this historical novel, which starts in Reconstruction-era Brooklyn, and which reminded me that Greenidge's immense talent as a writer shines most brightly through her fiction. -- Emma Straub, author of All Adults Here A feat of monumental thematic imagination ... Greenidge both mines history and transcends time -- Margaret Wilkerson Sexton * 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 * Greenidge is a master of character building ... Libertie is an easy page turner-its simple prose makes the plot digestible and the lyrical sentences sing louder. Libertie combines race, colorism, history, and sexism with the utter human pain of lostness. It's a beautiful telling of gorgeously tragic characters who keep you rooting for them, even as they continue to stray and stray and stray -- Natachi Onwuamaegbu * Boston Globe * Greenidge (We Love You, Charlie Freeman) delivers another genius work of radical historical fiction ... This piece de resistance is so immaculately orchestrated that each character, each setting, and each sentence sings. * Publishers Weekly, starred and boxed review * 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 * Libertie is epic yet engaging, and gorgeously written. * The Rumpus * From icy Brooklyn brownstones to tropical Haiti, the book ties together histories in a way that renders them-especially in today's world-both timeless and timely. * New York Journal of Books * 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 * Spectacular ... A revelatory and enchanting piece of historical fiction * BuzzFeed * Few novels have as strong a sense of place as this fascinating blend of magical realism and African American historical fiction ... Greenidge succeeds beautifully at presenting the complexities of an intense mother-daughter bond ... Greenidge creates a richly layered tapestry of Black communal life, notably Black female life, and the inevitable contradictions and compromises of "freedom." * Booklist, starred review * Exquisite historical fiction that lovingly reminds us to reassess our own present-day commitments to fighting for, and practicing, freedom. * Ms. Magazine * Engrossing ... 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 * Through the trials and tribulations of its young Black woman protagonist, [Libertie] reveals a commitment to Libertie's coming-of-age journey that mirrors that of Zora Neale Hurston's treatment of Janie Crawford in Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937). By bearing witness to Libertie's efforts to make a world for herself and for future generations, readers are left to consider the nature of freedom itself and the cost of making space for yourself in a world intent on restricting you. * Bitch Media *
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