Reading guide for Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge

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Libertie

by Kaitlyn Greenidge

Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge X
Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge
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  • Published:
    Mar 2021, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl
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Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!

  1. 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?
  2. How does Cathy Sampson's skin color affect what she is able to do?
  3. 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?
  4. 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?
  5. After such a clear passion for medicine and for following her mother's path, Libertie changes her mind and decides she does not ever want to become a doctor. Why?
  6. When Cathy Sampson opens the hospital, she makes a number of compromises. How do you feel about her choices?
  7. Discuss the role of the Graces. In what ways do they influence Libertie?
  8. Why doesn't Cathy want Libertie to marry Emmanuel Chase? She says to Libertie, "You chose your body over your mind." Do you agree with her assessment of Libertie's decision? What does she fear for her daughter?
  9. Emmanuel Chase promises a new life for Libertie, but she confronts a number of secrets about his family's history once they move to Haiti. How did you end up feeling about Emmanuel?
  10. Ella and Libertie have an initially hostile relationship, but over time, their relationship deepens as Libertie comes to understand her. How did you feel about Ella? What about the garment she embroiders—what does this reveal about Ella, about history, and about who tells it?
  11. There are a number of scenes depicting the beauty of living in Haiti, the scents and images of living there. At the same time, it is filled with its own secrets and limitations. How did you end up feeling about Haiti?
  12. What is Ti Me's role in the novel? What does she teach Libertie?
  13. In many ways, this novel is about the relationship between mothers and their children. Discuss Cathy and Libertie's dynamic, and what Libertie hopes for her own children. Did you feel more drawn to Cathy or to Libertie?
  14. Libertie is named by her father "in honor of the bright, shining future he was sure was coming." How do you feel about Libertie's future by the close of the novel? How do you feel about her final choice to return to America?


Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Algonquin Books. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

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