We are thrilled to bring you this exclusive first look at the cover of Kaitlyn Greenidge’s forthcoming novel, Libertie, forthcoming from Algonquin Books on March 30, 2021.
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.
Below, Kaitlyn Greenidge shares her thoughts on Libertie’s cover. Then, Algonquin creative director Christopher Moisan offers us a glimpse into how the cover came to be.
Kaitlyn Greenidge on the cover art for Libertie (Algonquin Books, March 30, 2021):
At a certain point when I was writing Libertie, I used to go to a pilates class on the second floor of an old church in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. I’d lie on the floor there and watch the light dancing off a pot of water in the studio’s corner, up on to the ceiling. Something about that image was so beautiful and felt like an important part of my main character, Libertie’s, life.
I knew I was writing Libertie into a time and place—1870s Jacmel, Haiti—that I did not have a lot of visual references for. I could find a lot of romantic reimaginings of the Haitian Revolution, but not many of the country in the seventy years after, pre-US occupation. So, I latched on to simple, everyday images—light on water, the types of flowers and plants native to the region—to help me understand this place I was imagining.
Laurino Feliciano’s stunning cover—especially that bright blue, the blue of a wide open, free sky, but also a blue that references heaven and the cosmology of spirits of the African diaspora—is a perfect conceptualization of these imaginings.
Creative director Christopher Moisan on the inspiration behind the cover:
Libertie is epic yet engaging, and gorgeously written. As soon as I read the first couple of pages of the manuscript, I felt immersed in Libertie’s world and transported to nineteenth-century Brooklyn and Haiti. Kaitlyn Greenidge’s attention to detail and historical context informed the direction for the cover. Laurindo Feliciano, an extremely talented Brazilian illustrator working in France, was a natural fit for this project, with his ability to meld nineteenth-century art with sensitive portraiture.
Laurindo loved the book as much as I did, and it shows. His attention to botanical detail was only matched by the author’s—Kaitlyn shared a dossier of her extensive research into medicinal herbs and the flora and fauna of Haiti with us.
I’m usually hesitant to depict a character on covers, but here I felt it was important. Laurindo gave a presence to the portrait that is difficult to achieve, making Libertie’s grace and strength evident at a glance. He made the process of art direction almost too easy; the period typography I added seemed to fit naturally within the illustration.
Our aim is that the cover embodies Kaitlyn’s inspiration and appeals to a range of readers. This is an exceptional book, and I hope everyone has the opportunity to meet Libertie in its pages.
Photograph of Kaitlyn Greenidge by Syreeta McFadden.