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Book - 2021
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"Coming of age as a free-born Black girl in Reconstruction-era Brooklyn, Libertie Sampson is all too aware that her mother, a physician, has a vision for their future together: Libertie will go to medical school and practice alongside her. But Libertie feels stifled by her mother's choices and is constantly reminded that, unlike her mother, 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"--
Publisher: Chapel Hill, North Carolina : Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2021
Edition: First Edition
ISBN: 9781616207014
Branch Call Number: FIC GREENID 2021
Characteristics: 327 pages ; 24 cm


From Library Staff

Adult Fiction. "Greenidge (We Love You, Charlie Freeman) delivers another genius work of radical historical fiction. Libertie Sampson, a freeborn Black girl in Reconstruction-era Brooklyn, is pushed by her mother, a doctor, to follow in her footsteps. But Libertie, whose day-to-day experienc... Read More »

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LPL_ShirleyB May 11, 2021

Libertie is such an apropos title for this coming of age tale of a daughter's deep longing for autonomy and her universally relatable search for self knowledge. While the ending is satisfying, it leaves open the possibility of a sequel. Relating realistic social justice and equity challenges for women and Blacks (including colorism) during the U.S. era of Reconstruction following the Civil War and also similar efforts in Haiti, written by a Black author.

May 09, 2021

What is freedom? How do you heal a person, a community, a society? Libertie struggles with these questions as she grows from child into college student into wife, listless and unsatisfied by the options that are available to her. This is a story about the generation gap in a rapidly changing world: Libertie rejecting her mother despite her hard-won accomplishments, while her husband Emmanuel works hard to make excuses for the on the ongoing damage his father wreaks on the family and community. In a world where she is boxed in by her race, class, color, religion, and sex, we watch Libertie pivot (and learn), then pivot (and learn) again and again in search of her own path forward.

May 06, 2021

During the first half of the book, there were times when I really loved it. I particularly appreciated reading about the Civil War from this angle (not a plantation angle, and not a romantic angle either). Libertie's observations on life raised thought-provoking questions that had me feeling she must be going somewhere, figuring herself out as she comes of age.

My feelings went downhill after Libertie's college experience, though. Her life basically gets...worse. I stuck with the reading, waiting for what I figured Libertie had to discover, but she more or less ambles along without knowing herself.

By the end of the book, she still doesn't know. She makes a hard choice to move forward, but somehow she still seems lost. I found the ending abrupt and rather up in the air, without much truly settled.

No, I don't need all novels to have happy endings, nor do I need them to spoon-feed messages to me. But I still like to have a compelling takeaway after finishing a book, even if it's something I dug into the story and found for myself.

Perhaps this is a novel where something deeper about the point of it, something I'm missing, will occur to me later on. For now though, I'm not sure what I've gotten out of this overall.

LPL_LeahN Apr 20, 2021

Book Page called this book "the freshest historical novel so far this year", and I wholeheartedly agree. Libertie, a girl and then a young woman trying to find herself in the Reconstruction Era, is like so many of the rest of us...always running from her flaws, trying desperately to catch up with the expectations of others. But otherwise her story is a truly unique one of Blackness and womanhood, told in a gripping, poetic voice that I couldn't walk away from for long.

Mar 31, 2021

have had my eye on this book since I first heard about it from the publisher. The gorgeous cover had me approving this request without even reading the synopsis. At one of the virtual publisher luncheons I attended, Libertie was spotlighted. Learning that this story was based on two real life characters heightened my anticipation. I started reading this novel last week, and at first was so enthralled with the story, I savoured it slowly. I would reread sentences, and stop and imagine scenes in my mind. This is my first work by Greenidge and it is so well written, rich with details and characters akin to Toni Morrison's writing. I loved seeing the world through Libertie's eyes. How her light skin doctor mother saved lives and started to turn into a realistic women with flaws. Her awe of her mother's healing, making her want to her follow her footsteps, and then see the world as she steps into the academic world. When Libertie returns home after some time in school, the novel started to fall apart for me. Her time in Haiti soon was just a read and no longer an adventure. It is this reason I gave the novel 3.5 rounded up to 4 stars. I wanted more of Brooklyn and her mother's story, and what becomes of them all. I felt like the ending of the novel, left me with more questions about everything. That could just be my nosy side of wanting clear cut answers. I also did not care for Emmanuel or his family, so maybe that's what made the latter half more of a chore. After reading this book, I will try anything by Greenidge, just for a taste of her words. For someone that loves lyrical prose writing, this was a good book. I would recommend this one because I think no matter what kind of reader goes into the story, they will leave it feeling like they gained something.

I received a complimentary copy of this ebook from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

Mar 30, 2021

“I saw my mother raise a man from the dead.” Is the powerful first line of Greenidge’s second novel. Libertie is the daughter of a black female doctor. Born before the American Civil War, Libertie struggles with becoming the doctor her mother wishes her to be. Her mother, Dr. Sampson is light-skinned, making it easier for white women to accept her doctoring skills. Libertie is dark-skinned, making life different for her. She fights her mother’s wishes, and when Emmanuel Chase, a young doctor who has come to Brooklyn to apprentice under her mother’s tutelage, Libertie falls in love with him and moves to his home in Haiti. She fails to find the black homeland she’d been expecting and continues to struggle with her place in the world. This is a departure from historical fiction books by spending more time looking at how historically Blacks themselves placed value on their skin tones rather than on the inner strengths of the people. The characters, as well, are different beginning with the man, Mr. Ben, who is raised from the dead by Libertie’s mother. He, too, is a lost soul, whether from mental illness or from a true sorrow at the loss of a woman he loved. There are some black college students who are afraid to perform for white audiences. They do not want to share the pain of their singing with people who wouldn’t understand. Over and over, Libertie deals with the issue of “what does it mean to be free.”

Feb 09, 2021

This haunting historical tale follows the daughter of an African American healer, from her childhood near the outbreak of the Civil War to a marriage in Haiti. Libertie is expected to follow in her mother's profession, but that's not where her heart lies. Abandoning medical school, she embarks on a marriage that seems to promise freedom from the constraints of her old life. She finds instead another kind of yearning to be free of constraint--this time of the patriarchal kind. Libertie's determined quest for freedom propels the story, through close escapes with the Underground Railroad to the New York Draft Riots to what seems to be a promised haven of liberation in Haiti. The plot is a bit muddled in the first part of the novel, perhaps reflecting Libertie's entanglement with her mother. The story, and the character, come into focus when she achieves some degree of freedom, off on her own in medical school, and then in her new life abroad. Fans of historical fiction, and especially those interested in the lives of free Blacks in the 19th century, will find much to appreciate here.

Thanks to @AlgonquinBooks and #NetGalley for making this advanced reader copy available in exchange for my honest opinion.


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