A historical fiction inspired by one of the first female Black doctors in the US? Sign me up. When I saw this advance listener’s copy (ALC) from Libro.fm, I knew I had to listen to it! Libertie is an intriguing historical fiction story, but what I loved most about it, was how Greenidge explores motherhood and daughters. Keep reading this book review to see my full thoughts.
Coming of age as a free-born Black girl in Reconstruction-era Brooklyn, Libertie Sampson was all too aware that her purposeful mother, a practicing physician, had a vision for their future together: Libertie would 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.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from the Libro.fm. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
TW: colorism, racism
Libertie is a story about a girl who has to find her own path. All her mother wants is for Libertie to follow in her footsteps and become a doctor, but Libertie cannot understand the ways her mother panders to white people, or the pressure on her shoulders. Needing an escape, she marries a Haitian man and begins to figure out what freedom means to her. Libertie is a coming of age story focused on her discoveries, her own struggles to figure out the role she wants for herself, and her own dreams.
It’s very much a story about not knowing what is possible, not believing it, until we see it. I could very much empathize with both Libertie – the ways she is scorned by white people and not understanding why her mother isn’t more vocal – with her mother’s struggles as well – to need to court favor for funding to help impoverished black women needing health care. Libertie was very much a story that focuses on this mother/daughter relationship in the ways we strive to achieve, and rebel against our mothers.
As readers, we can see both of their sides, we can see the ways in which both women are struggling under the racism and our quests for freedom. So as Libertie’s story continues, I was the most intrigued by the ways her future changes the way she sees her mother. While I felt like the ending was wrapped up more hastily than I would have liked, the audiobook flew by. I became immersed in the different portrayals of women in Libertie.
The ways these women pursue freedom, what it means to each of them. I didn’t expect to see so much of myself in this book: in Libertie’s struggles in a foreign country, in the ways she feels that rift with her mother, and how alone she feels in Haiti. I think that the emotions of the audiobook probably enhanced this feeling, and is why I’ve been loving audiobooks so much recently.
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