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Libertie (2021)

por Kaitlyn Greenidge

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2431986,217 (3.52)9
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Mostrando 1-5 de 19 (seguinte | mostrar todos)
The eponymous main character of Libertie is the dark-skinned daughter of a white-passing Black physician mother, living in what is today Brooklyn in the years around the American Civil War. In the book's first half, Kaitlyn Greenidge brings to vivid life a free Black community in the mid-nineteenth century.

The second half, however, stumbled for me. The action moves to a Haiti that's got distinct shades of the Victorian Gothic melodrama to it, and which never convinced me of its reality as a place despite Greenidge's frequent scattering of Kreyòl, and depends for its emotional heft on a series of letters which to me read like an MFA student's imagining of how an actual person might write a letter.

Overall, I could see and appreciate what Greenidge was trying to do here—a Civil War narrative which centres neither plantations nor battlefields; an exploration of gender, colorism, and colonialism—but I didn't think Libertie was truly successful. ( )
  siriaeve | Sep 19, 2021 |
Based on the life of Susan Smith McKinney Steward, the first Black woman to become a doctor in the state of New York, this novel is told by her daughter Libertie, who loses her father at a very early age and is taught medical procedures by her determined mother during the Civil War period. Of very dark skin and a freewoman, unlike her mother who could “pass”, Libertie sees how there is now a bit of hope for a better future. When she is sent off to college for science classes in preparation for her own medical career, Libertie instead becomes entranced by two female students, gospel singers, and decides to be an impresario, bringing them back East to perform, without disclosing to her mother that she herself had been dismissed from college. She is obviously on a different path than her mother, but what exactly IS her path? When Libertie returns to Brooklyn, she meets and falls in love with her mother's young protégé, Emmanuel, who brings her to Haiti with the hopes of starting a clinic. Libertie is distressed to be sharing her home with her father-in-law Bishop Chase, who has molested many young women in the parish, and Emmanuel’s sister Ella, who has been driven mad by bearing witness to the abuse. Still believing in her husband but yearning for her mother back in Brooklyn, Libertie is faced with a difficult choice when she becomes pregnant. Libertie's perspective and thoughts are beautifully expressed and the reader cannot help but be lovingly concerned with a woman of such intelligence, with so little direction.

Quote: "It is a strange thing, to see something you have imagined over and over again finally acted out in front of you. It is almost like a kind of death, a loss of something, that the thing is not as you has thought it would be." ( )
  froxgirl | Aug 22, 2021 |
Libertie is an engrossing read with lyrical, beautiful writing. It’s a haunting story of a young Black woman growing up in post-Civil War America as a free woman, but denied many of her rights because of her skin colour.

Libertie (named after her father’s interest in a free country for Negroes in Liberia) has always lived in her mother’s shadow. Her mother is a doctor, with her lighter skin offering her many freedoms that Libertie is denied. Her mother dreams of the day the two can work side by side as doctors, but doesn’t see white women recoiling from Libertie nor notice that Libertie’s heart is not in medicine. Libertie tries to be a keen student, but she knows that she doesn’t have the passion that drives her mother. Seeing her mother unable to cure some people, such as Ben Daisy who escaped from the south, plants seeds of doubt in Libertie’s mind. Libertie is everything to her mother, but Libertie chafes against her mother’s direction and assertions. Sent to an all-Black college in Ohio, Libertie finds that her mind is not on her studies in medicine and finds joy in music instead. Returning home, she finds herself enamoured of her mother’s protegee, Emmanuel. Can he offer the freedom she craves in Haiti? Or will Libertie need to find it on her own?

I really enjoyed the majority of the novel, but did lose interest when the setting moved to Haiti. The focus on Libertie tended to drift away as she became less interested in Emmanuel and his family. Her drawing away from them was necessary for her to define herself and what she wanted from life, but it all felt a little detached and far away. In contrast, Libertie’s time with her mother growing up and at college felt very focused and in close range. The reader is privy to every thought of Libertie, including those that question her mother and others in position of power. Through Libertie’s eyes, the reader gets an idea of what it is like to be Black during that time period. Despite being free, Libertie is denied a seat in a stagecoach (instead, she is ordered to ride on the roof for miles) and has people staring at her because of the colour of her skin. In Haiti, she is also an anomaly because of her skin, her new family and that she doesn’t speak the language. Her outsider status continues, just as her husband tells her that Haiti is the place for Black people. There, Libertie sees things she disagrees with and gains the strength to call it out. In that way, she achieves her own freedom and accepts her past.

The writing in Libertie is simply stunning, evoking emotion and a clear sense of the setting. The characters are just as fascinating. Libertie can make silly choices and be infuriating at times, but you can’t help but cheer her on. Her mother is all business, but glimpses of her deep love for Libertie shine through in unexpected ways. It’s a thought provoking read of interpretations of freedom as well as a coming of age story.

Thank you to Allen & Unwin for the copy of this book. My review is honest.

http://samstillreading.wordpress.com ( )
  birdsam0610 | Jul 24, 2021 |
This is a beautifully written historical novel by Kaitlyn Greenidge. If you look closely at this picture, you can see the red tabs that I stuck to pages when I found a particularly well-wrought sentence. There were dozens.

The setting is 1860s Brooklyn. I have to admit, part of the charm of the book was that this was a time and place that was fresh and unknown to me.

The line that opens the first section is this: "Se pa tout blesi ki geri. Not all wounds heal. 1860." The protagonist is Libertie Sampson, a young Black woman and the daughter of a doctor who can pass for white. Her mother intends that Libertie will join her medical practice, that they will be Dr. Sampson and daughter, but Libertie's interests lean elsewhere. The book begins in 1860, and we see through Libertie's eyes (told in first person POV) the world before the Civil War, during it, and afterwards, when Libertie moves to Haiti and experiences life there.

Despite being set during a war, this is not a book full of Huge Events. Rather, it's a thoughtful, poignant look at a mother and a daughter, striving to find their places in a world where everything is changing. It is also a nuanced meditation on race and our responsibilities toward others. I'm tempted to call it a coming-of-age story, and I would recommend it not only to adults but to YA readers, who I think will identify with Libertie's longings and hopes, her fears of disappointing her mother, and her desperate break with her early life that causes her to feel regret and brings about a growing awareness of herself.

I'm always entranced by authors who develop their secondary characters well. My favorite SCs in this novel are Experience and Louisa, two Black women singers, who are inspired by the Fisk Jubilee singers, all emancipated slaves, who formed an a cappella group that toured America and Europe to earn money to support Fisk University. The last section of the book, set in Haiti, was hard for me to read, as Libertie suffers emotional abuse at the hands of her husband Emmanuel's family. But her letter to her husband, at the end, is a satisfying triumph. ( )
1 vote KarenOdden | Jul 21, 2021 |
My review of this book can be found on my Youtube Vlog at:


Enjoy! ( )
  booklover3258 | Jul 12, 2021 |
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