BOOK OF THE MONTH
Libertie: A Novel is Bookclubz' Book of the Month.
Use these discussion questions to guide your next meeting.
ABOUT THE BOOK
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 light-skinned mother, Libertie’s dark skin will not enable her to pass as white. 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 past.
This book of the month and discussion guide was shared and sponsored in partnership with Algonquin Books.
THE DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
Libertie grew out of Kaitlyn Greenidge’s research about Dr. Susan Smith McKinney Steward and her daughter. Although the characters take their origins from Steward and her daughter Anna, Greenidge expands deeply on the historical record. Why do you think she chose to write this as fiction rather than nonfiction? How does that affect what you take away from the novel?
Ben Daisy tells Libertie that his girlfriend “said if she were ever free, she’d spend all day covered in silk and she’d paint her face pretty . . . She knew what she would do with freedom. It wasn’t man’s work she’d do with freedom. Not like your mama. She knew better than that.” And Emmanuel Chase also has a specific definition of freedom in relation to women. How is freedom defined in the novel by men? How is it defined by women?
Libertie is much darker skinned than her mother, as many people remark to each of them. How does that physical fact influence Libertie’s perspective on the world? How does it inform her choices? How does Cathy Sampson’s skin color affect what she is able to do?
Libertie: A Novel
Named One of the Most-Anticipated Books of 2021 by:
O, The Oprah Magazine, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Time, The Millions, Refinery29, Garden & Gun, Publishers Lunch, BuzzFeed, The Rumpus, BookPage, Harper's Bazaar, Ms., Goodreads, and more
“This is one of the most thoughtful and amazingly beautiful books I’ve read all year. Kaitlyn Greenidge is a master storyteller.”
—Jacqueline Woodson, author of Red at the Bone
“Pure brilliance. So much will be written about Kaitlyn Greenidge’s Libertie—how it blends history and magic into a new kind of telling, how it spins the past to draw deft circles around our present—but none of it will measure up to the singular joy of reading this book.”
—Mira Jacob, author of Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations
“Wielding both her knowledge of our history and her incredible sense of story, Kaitlyn Greenidge further establishes herself as one of the sharpest minds working today. Libertie is a novel of epic power and endless grace.”
—Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, author of Friday Black
“In this singular novel, Kaitlyn Greenidge confronts the anonymizing forces of history with her formidable gifts. Libertie is a glorious, piercing song for the ages—fierce, brilliant, and utterly free.”
—Brandon Taylor, author of Real Life