We Love You, Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenidge

Rating: 4 of 5

We Love You, Charlie Freeman is a story about a Black family who moves from the city to the boonies in order to participate in a research project teaching sign language to a chimpanzee named Charlie. But do not assume this is a book about chimpanzees or animal rights, oh no. This book is about race, memory, history, and especially the language with which to talk about all three.

Charlie Freeman hooked me with its characters from page one. It was interesting to discover how the experiment grew to encompass the family more so than the chimpanzee, and it was downright frightening to uncover the Institute’s dark history. Living the majority of the story through Charlotte’s eyes allowed me access to an existence I will never be able to live myself, and I appreciated the experience of seeing from Charlotte’s and her family’s perspectives.

Because I do not wish my own skin was white. What I envy is not their skin but their insouciance. I envy the freedom to sin with only a little bit of consequence, to commit one selfish act and not have it mean the downfall of my entire people. Where indecency and mischief do not mean annihilation. I envy that their capacity for love is already assumed, not set aside or presumed missing, like it is for us Negro women. (Nymphadora, 1929)”

Watch out for Kaitlyn Greenidge; I suspect she’s gonna make big waves in the literary world and I can’t wait!!

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(Review cross-posted on LibraryThing and Goodreads.)

Received ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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