Libertie

Kaitlyn Greenidge. Algonquin, $26.95 (336p) ISBN 978-1-61620-701-4
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 experience differs from her mother due to her darker skin, is more interested in music and wants to follow her own path. In her poetic narration, she gives testimony to the injustices of white supremacy she witnesses and reflects on colorism, “colorstruck” misogyny, and the potential shackles of marriage, all the while turning over the question of what freedom is. When her mother insists on treating the same white women who recoil at Libertie’s dark skin, she believes her mother “gave up co-conspirators for customers.” Desperate to secure a future for Libertie, her mother sends her off to Cunningham College in Ohio, but Libertie turns away from her studies after she meets fellow students Experience and Louisa: “When I sang with them, my whole history fell away. There was no past, no promised future, only the present of one sustained note.” After Libertie is kicked out of Cunningham, she schemes to bring Experience and Louisa to Brooklyn and sing for the Black community. But her road gets rockier, and a marriage proposal from a Haitian man brings mixed blessings, leading her to continue reflecting on the limits of freedom for a Black woman. This pièce de résistance is so immaculately orchestrated that each character, each setting, and each sentence sings. (Mar.)
Reviewed on : 12/14/2020
Release date: 03/30/2021
Genre: Fiction
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