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From here to Haiti

Cover of Libertie
A review of Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge

Libertie Sampson is a free-born Black girl coming of age in 1860s Brooklyn. She is the daughter of the only Black woman doctor in the region and as such feels incredible pressure from her mother to follow in her footsteps. She's always known that her mother wants her to go to college and study medicine so that they can one day open a practice together. And to a point Libertie is willing to go along - mostly because this is all that she has ever imagined. But once at university she finds herself more drawn to the arts, especially music, than she is to the sciences she'd need for a medical degree. And when she meets a Haitian man, Emmanuel Chase, who promises that if she marries him and returns with him to Haiti, she'll have the freedom of choice she longs for. Of course nothing is ever as perfect as it might seem and Libertie has to figure out just what having a choice about her own life will mean.

Greenidge centers her novel on the lives and experiences of Black women as she explores the key relationships in Libertie's life, her mother, her husband and two women she met at college and delves into issues of racism, colorism, and misogyny. It's richly detailed and well-researched historical fiction, which uses the real life of Dr. Susan Smith McKinney Steward, the first African American woman to earn a medical degree in New York, as a jumping off point. A combination of challenging, intriguing and thought-provoking, this is a lovely read.

Feb 5, 2021