Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge

by

[Tricia]

I love it when historical fiction reminds me, as it so often does, of how much I don’t know. This was the case in many ways with Libertie. For one thing, the book introduced me to the life of Dr. Susan McKinney Steward, the first Black woman physician in New York, and only the third Black woman to become a doctor in the country. The book, inspired by Dr. McKinney Steward’s life, is told through the eyes of Libertie, the daughter of a Black woman doctor, growing up in a free Black community in Brooklyn during the Reconstruction era. At the heart of the story is the complicated relationship between Libertie and her mother. Libertie idolizes her mother growing up, but struggles with her mother’s expectation that she too will become a doctor.

One of the things I liked most about this book is the that it provides such a fascinating snapshot of two particular places during this pivotal time – first, the free Black community in Brooklyn where Libertie grows up, and then Haiti, where Libertie moves when she marries a Haitian doctor. The racial, political, religious and class dynamics the author depicts in both places during this time were fascinating. I also realized how little I know about the history of Haiti, which is something I need to dig into.

One of the most striking aspects of this book to me is its focus on the mental health impacts of slavery. As a child Libertie sees her mother treat several people who are brought to her directly after having escaped slavery. Even when their physical wounds are healed, the psychological toll, what we would recognize today as PTSD, is something that her mother struggles to treat. There is also a fascinating dynamic throughout the book between those like Libertie and her mother who were freeborn, and those, including many of her mother’s patients, and two college friends of Libertie, known as The Graces, who had been enslaved.

There was so much to think about from this book, and I think it will stay with me for a while. I’m very glad I read it.

Libertie is available as both an ebook and an audiobook on Hoopla, as well as at the Library.

cover

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: