We Love You, Charlie Freeman is a story about a black family, the Freemans, who live with a chimp at the famed Toneybee Institute, in order to teach him sign language. Well, that's what the book is supposed to be about, but there's so very much more to this book than meets the eye. Delving into the Institute's past, the oldest daughter, Charlotte, discovers a history full of scientifically questionable "studies" involving apes and black people, with the blessing of the white heiress who owns the Institute. Moving back and forth from the studies to the present, Greenidge's story is riveting. Addressing white privilege, the exploitation of blacks, the burden of racism, black activism, the quest for love and family, and what happens when it all goes wrong, this novel is excellent. Recommended By Dianah H., Powells.com
History writ large is a shambling, cumbersome thing — it being larded with the biases of its profiteers. In We Love You, Charlie Freeman, Greenidge demonstrates that language, and how we use it, can corrode a culture through the lithe, seemingly anodyne tools of euphemism and insinuation. A pulsating debut rich with perspective on faith, family, and the burden of lineage. Recommended By Justin W., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
This shattering novel is filled with storytelling sleight of hand. What
appears to be a story of mothers and daughters, of sisterhood put to the
test, of adolescent love and grown-up misconduct, and of history’s long
reach, becomes a provocative and compelling exploration of America’s
failure to find a language to talk about race.
"Terrifically auspicious . . . Ms. Greenidge has charted an ambitious
course for a book that begins so mock-innocently. And she lets the
suspicion and outrage mount as the Freemans’ true situation unfolds.
This author is also a historian, and she makes the '1929' on Toneybee
plaque tell another, equally gripping story that strongly parallels the
Freemans’ 1990 experience." Janet Maslin, The New York Times
"A terrifically auspicious debut." --Janet Maslin, The New York Times
"Smart, timely and powerful . . . A rich examination of America's treatment of race, and the ways we attempt to discuss and confront it today." --The Huffington Post
The Freeman family--Charles, Laurel, and their daughters, teenage Charlotte and nine-year-old Callie--have been invited to the Toneybee Institute to participate in a research experiment. They will live in an apartment on campus with Charlie, a young chimp abandoned by his mother. The Freemans were selected because they know sign language; they are supposed to teach it to Charlie and welcome him as a member of their family. But when Charlotte discovers the truth about the institute's history of questionable studies, the secrets of the past invade the present in devious ways.
The power of this shattering novel resides in Greenidge's undeniable storytelling talents. What appears to be a story of mothers and daughters, of sisterhood put to the test, of adolescent love and grown-up misconduct, and of history's long reach, becomes a provocative and compelling exploration of America's failure to find a language to talk about race.
"A magnificently textured, vital, visceral feat of storytelling . . . by] a sharp, poignant, extraordinary new voice of American literature." --Tea Obreht, author of The Tiger's Wife
About the Author
Kaitlyn Greenidge received her MFA from Hunter College, where she
studied with Nathan Englander and Peter Carey, and was Colson
Whitehead’s writing assistant as part of the Hertog Research Fellowship.
Greenidge was the recipient of the Bernard Cohen Short Story Prize. She
was a Bread Loaf scholar, a Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Workspace
artist-in-residence, and a Johnson State College visiting emerging
writer. Her work has appeared in the Believer, the Feminist Wire, At Length, Fortnight Journal, Green Mountains Review, Afrobeat Journal, the Tottenville Review, and American Short Fiction. Originally from Boston, she now lives in Brooklyn.