A KIND OF FREEDOM

Margaret Wilkerson Sexton

Evelyn is a Creole woman who comes of age in New Orleans at the height of World War II. Her family inhabits the upper echelon of Black society, and when she falls for no-account Renard, she is forced to choose between her life of privilege and the man she loves.

In 1982, Evelyn’s daughter, Jackie, is a frazzled single mother grappling with her absent husband’s drug addiction. Just as she comes to terms with his abandoning the family, he returns, ready to resume their old life.

Jackie’s son, T.C., loves the creative process of growing marijuana more than the weed itself.

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Evelyn is a Creole woman who comes of age in New Orleans at the height of World War II. Her family inhabits the upper echelon of Black society, and when she falls for no-account Renard, she is forced to choose between her life of privilege and the man she loves.

In 1982, Evelyn’s daughter, Jackie, is a frazzled single mother grappling with her absent husband’s drug addiction. Just as she comes to terms with his abandoning the family, he returns, ready to resume their old life.

Jackie’s son, T.C., loves the creative process of growing marijuana more than the weed itself. He was a square before Hurricane Katrina, but the New Orleans he knew didn’t survive the storm. Fresh out of a four-month stint for drug charges, T.C. decides to start over―until an old friend convinces him to stake his new beginning on one last deal.

For Evelyn, Jim Crow is an ongoing reality, and in its wake new threats spring up to haunt her descendants. A Kind of Freedom is an urgent novel that explores the legacy of racial disparity in the South through a poignant and redemptive family history.

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  • Counterpoint Press
  • Hardcover
  • August 2017
  • 256 Pages
  • 9781619029224

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$26.00

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About Margaret Wilkerson Sexton

Born and raised in New Orleans, Margaret Wilkerson Sexton studied creative writing at Dartmouth College and law at UC Berkeley. She was a recipient of the Lombard Fellowship and spent a year in the Dominican Republic working for a civil rights organization and writing. Her debut novel, A Kind of Freedom, was long-listed for the National Book Award, and her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in The New York Times Book Review, Oprah.com, Lenny Letter, The Massachusetts Review, Grey Sparrow Journal, and other publications. She lives in the Bay Area, California, with her family.

Praise

Long-listed for the 2017 National Book Award
A New York Times Notable Book of 2017
A New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice

“This luminous and assured first novel shines an unflinching, compassionate light on three generations of a black family in New Orleans, emphasizing endurance more than damage.”The New York Times Book Review, Editors’ Choice

“Sexton’s first novel is set in New Orleans from the mid-1940s to the city’s ruthless real estate makeover years after Hurricane Katrina. Delivered by three accomplished narrators, the story moves through three generations of a black family, starting with the daughter of a pioneering doctor and his Creole wife, who have set themselves against her marrying the hard-working son of a janitor. This moving debut is ingeniously told in its passage back and forth through lives and changing times.”The Washington Post

“Brilliantly juxtaposing World War II, the ’80s and post-Katrina present, Sexton follows three generations of a black New Orleans family as they struggle to bloom amid the poison of racism. The author’s deep knowledge of her city and unerring ear for dialogue help bring her unforgettable characters to life.”People

Discussion Questions

1. In an interview with The East Bay Times, the author, Margaret Wilkerson Sexton, says “The story had to be New Orleans. . . You won’t find many other cities where black people were doing so well in the ’30s and ’40s.” What do you think she means by this––how do the setting and this timeline play a part in telling the story of this family? How would their lives have been different if they had lived in another place?

2. The novel spans three generations. How did challenges Evelyn face carry over to the lives of her children and grandchildren? What challenges did Jackie and T.C. face that Evelyn did not face? How has racial inequality changed from the 1940s to today?

3. Discuss the presence of ambition and success in A Kind of Freedom. What part does ambition play in the relationship between Renard and Evelyn? How do Sybil’s and Jackie’s respective relationships with success affect their relationship? What effect does racial disparity have on T.C.’s relationship with ambition and success?

4. Have you been to New Orleans? Did the novel open your eyes to aspects of the city you hadn’t considered before? If you live in New Orleans, did you find the author’s representation of the city to be accurate?

5. Evelyn’s chapters, as well as being interspersed throughout, bookend the novel. What effect did this bookending have on your reading of the book? Overall, do you think the author’s choice to tell the story non-chronologically was effective? How do you think your reading experience would have been different, had the story been told in chronological order?

6. Discuss the two epigraphs from hip hop artist Talib Kweli and writer Edward P. Jones. Both consider inheritance, freedom, and parentage. How do these quotations frame your reading of Sexton’s novel?

7. What do you think the title means? Did your understanding of the title change as you read the book?