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Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge
Historical fiction

Libertie

by Kaitlyn Greenidge

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Quick take

Tired of everyone telling you how to live your life? Libertie's fight to shape her future in 1800s NYC is for you.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_SlowRead

    Slow build

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_FamilyDrama

    Family drama

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Literary

    Literary

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Acclaim

    Critically acclaimed

Synopsis

Coming of age as a freeborn Black girl in Reconstruction-era Brooklyn, Libertie Sampson is all too aware that her purposeful mother, a practicing physician, has a vision for their future together: Libertie is to 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.

Inspired by the life of one of the first Black female doctors in the United States and rich with historical detail, Kaitlyn Greenidge’s new and immersive novel will resonate with readers eager to understand our present through a deep, moving, and lyrical dive into our complicated past.

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Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of Libertie.
Libertie

I saw my mother raise a man from the dead. “It still didn’t help him much, my love,” she told me. But I saw her do it all the same. That’s how I knew she was magic.

The time I saw Mama raise a man from the dead, it was close to dusk. Mama and her nurse, Lenore, were in her office—Mama with her little greasy glasses on the tip of her nose, balancing the books, and Lenore banking the fire. That was the rule in Mama’s office—the fire was kept burning from dawn till after dinner, and we never let it go out completely. Even on the hottest days, when my linen collar stuck to the back of my neck and the belly of Lenore’s apron was stained with sweat, a mess of logs and twigs was lit up down there, waiting.

When the dead man came, it was spring. I was playing on the stoop. I’d broken a stick off the mulberry bush, so young it had resisted the pull of my fist. I’d had to work for it. Once I’d wrenched it off, I stripped the bark and rubbed the wet wood underneath on the flagstone, pressing the green into rock.

I heard a rumbling come close and looked up, and I could see, down the road, a mule plodding slow and steady with a covered wagon, a ribbon of dust trailing behind it.

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Why I love it

“I saw my mother raise a man from the dead. ‘It still didn’t help him much, my love,’ she told me. But I saw her do it all the same. That’s how I knew she was magic.”

So begins the transporting novel Libertie, a moving and literary story about a mother, her daughter, and the weight of the expectations that pass back and forth between them.

Born just before the Civil War in what is now New York City, Libertie is the free-born daughter of a successful and gifted female physician who expects her to take up, if not extend, the legacy of their family. Contrary to her mother’s plans, Libertie wonders whether her life may follow a different path. So it comes as little surprise to the reader that when a suitor asks for her hand in marriage—with the promise that she will be his equal in his home country of Haiti—she accepts. (You can imagine her mom’s reaction.)

This is no ordinary coming-of-age tale—it’s also a tribute to real figures from the historical archive and an existentialist account of one woman’s search for freedom. Libertie is an absolute achievement: a wonderful story about a young woman who—against the clamor of opinions on who she should be—dares to listen to her own voice.

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Member ratings (7,847)

  • carole c.

    FAR ROCKAWAY, NY

    Interesting time period. The diverse community of socio economic status and their intertwining relationships. The biases within the race as well as the differentials in relating to the majority white class

  • Debora F.

    HAMPTON BAYS, NY

    I found Libertie’s bravery in telling her truth and traveling back to the US with her twins invigorating. I thoroughly enjoyed Ms. Greenidge’s use of dialog and storytelling. Reading her first book.

  • Kelly A.

    Montgomery Village, MD

    It started slow for me and then couldn’t put it down. Libertie is struggling with living to her Mom’s expectations, being a woman of color in the Civil War era, finding her way in relationships…Wow!

  • Vanessa C.

    PISGAH FOREST, NC

    Libertie—the novel and the character—explores multiple facets of freedom, love, loyalty, and identity. Greenridge treats the flawed characters with compassion; each page fosters a sense of discovery.

  • Elysha O.

    Santa Rosa, CA

    I thoroughly enjoyed the story. Somewhat of a quick read but deep enough to keep my mind busy in a good way. I really love the author’s cadence and sentence structure, looking forward to more from her

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