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A Kind of Freedom

A Novel

List Price: $26.00

August 8, 2017 | Hardcover | 6 x 9, 256 Pages | ISBN 9781619029224

An ABA Summer/Fall 2017 Indies Introduce Selection
A SIBA Summer 2017 Okra Pick

“[A] portrait of a family and a richly layered exploration of their sufferings . . .This remarkable debut marks Margaret Wilkerson Sexton as a writer worth watching.” ―Chicago Review of Books, 1 of 12 books to read this August

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 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 must decide if the promise of her husband is worth the near certainty he’ll leave again. Jackie’s son, T.C., loves the creative process of growing marijuana more than the weed itself. He finds something hypnotic about training the seedlings, testing the levels, trimming the leaves, drying the buds. He was a square before Hurricane Katrina, but the New Orleans he knew didn’t survive the storm. But 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.

Born and raised in New Orleans, MARGARET WILKERSON SEXTON studied creative writing at Dartmouth and law at UC Berkeley. A recipient of the Lombard fellowship, she spent a year in the Dominican Republic working for a civil rights organization and writing A Kind of Freedom, her debut novel. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and her stories have been published or are forthcoming in Grey Sparrow Journal, Limestone Journal, and Broad! Magazine. She lives in the Bay Area, California.

Praise
An ABA Summer/Fall 2017 Indies Introduce Selection
A SIBA Summer 2017 Okra Pick
Chosen as 1 of 12 books to read this August by the Chicago Review of Books
Chosen as 1 of 24 Incredible Books to Add to Your Shelf This Summer by the Huffington Post
Chosen as 1 of 10 Books to Read in August by BBC Culture
“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”This generational arc is largely related to systemic racism, but to simplify this novel as an exploration of such minimizes Wilkerson’s incredible achievement. Rather, A Kind of Freedom is a portrait of a family and a richly layered exploration of their sufferings . . . What is most remarkable about the tapestry of these stories is the way each person’s section is written a little differently from the last, like varying fabrics. Evelyn’s chapters and T.C.’s are written so distinctly that at times it feels like a completely different person wrote them. Sexton’s ability to change the style of writing to fit the time period is one of the most impressive aspects of the novel. Equally notable is how vividly each character is portrayed. Not only do each of the characters feel relatable, but they’re so fully realized that they stay with you long after finishing the story. That this multigenerational novel is a mere 228 pages and still manages to create such lifelike characters is an impressive feat . . . This remarkable debut marks Margaret Wilkerson Sexton as a writer worth watching.” ―Chicago Review of Books“In her luminous and remarkably assured first novel, A Kind of Freedom, Margaret Wilkerson Sexton . . . shine[s] an unflinching but compassionate light on three generations of a black family in New Orleans who try to make the best choices they can in a world defined at every turn by constraint, peril and disappointment . . . For a debut novelist to take up such charged material is daring; to succeed in lending free-standing life to her characters without yielding an inch to sentimentality—or its ugly twin, pathology—announces her as a writer of uncommon nerve and talent . . . A Kind of Freedom attends to the marks left on a family where its links have been bruised and sometimes broken, but dwells on the endurance and not the damage. The force of this naturalistic vision is disquieting; it is also moving. One could say that it has the disenchanting optimism of the blues.” —The New York Times Book Review

“Sexton subtly lays bare the ever-present societal forces at work to undermine black success and family.” ―The Huffington Post, 1 of 24 Incredible Books to Add to Your Shelf This Summer

“[A] powerful first novel, which traces the complex downward spiral of a black family over three generations . . . Despite the struggles, A Kind of Freedom glimmers with hope.” ―BBC Culture, 1 of 10 Books to Read in August

“It’s hard to believe that A Kind of Freedom is Sexton’s first novel . . . Given the recent happenings in Charlottesville, Virginia, it’s hard to imagine a more relevant release date for this lovely, important book. This is a book for our time.” ―New York Journal of Books

“… [T]his emotionally wrenching, character-rich debut spans three generations in a city deeply impacted by segregation, economic inequality, and racial tensions… Sexton’s narrative navigates complex topics with an adroit sensitivity that lends sympathy to each character’s realistic, if occasionally self-destructive, motivations. Being able to capture 70 years of New Orleans history and the emotional changes in one family in such a short book is a testament to Sexton’s powers of descriptive restraint. In this fine debut, each generation comes with new possibilities and deferred dreams blossoming with the hope that this time, finally, those dreams may come to fruition.” ―Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Sexton’s debut novel shows us that hard work does not guarantee success and that progress doesn’t always move in a straight line.” ― Kirkus 

“This moving debut is ingeniously told in its passage back and forth through lives and changing times. Sexton’s portrayal of the intersection of character and circumstance is astute and nuanced, showing how adversity is amplified by each era’s racial injustice.” —The Washington Post

“Sexton’s debut novel is a poignant, deeply emotional and timely exploration of systemic racism in America. Told through the interconnected narratives of three generations of a New Orleans family, the work captures more than seven decades of history in one book without feeling overstuffed. Quite the opposite, actually: You’ll be left wanting to know more about these incredible characters’ circumstances, motivations and dreams, both realized and unfulfilled.” ―PureWow, 1 of 9 Books We Can’t Wait to Read in August

“Future literary classic.” ―The Conversation

“Sexton’s handling of switchbacks between chapters featuring the different generations and characters is deft, swift and seamless, indicative of a more seasoned novelist.” ―East Bay Times

“Three New Orleans generations make up Margaret Wilkerson Sexton’s heart-wrenching novel, A Kind of Freedom, each suffering through desires, ambitions and brutal limitations . . . Sexton, who grew up in New Orleans but now lives in the Bay Area of California, tears at your heart with this multi-generational tale in which readers hope for the best for this family but know society’s limitations and empty promises will drag them down. And yet, hope remains. Or maybe the possibility of hope.” ―Monroe News Star

“Superb read! A compassionately told story of four generations in one American family who endure the unpredictable challenges of our rapidly changing society. Bound together through blood ties and love, Sexton’s keenly drawn characters sweep you into a mesmerizing cascade of loss and triumph.” ―Carol Cassella, author of OxygenHealer, and Gemini

“In A Kind of Freedom, Margaret Wilkerson Sexton delivers a fresh and unflinching portrait of African American life and establishes herself as a new and much-needed voice in literature. Vividly imagined and boldly told, A Kind of Freedom is a book for our time. A fierce and courageous debut.” ―Natalie Baszile, author of Queen Sugar

“Margaret Wilkerson Sexton’s A Kind of Freedom is a brilliant mosaic of an African American family and a love song to New Orleans. Her characters are all of us, America’s family, written with deep insight and devastating honesty but also with grace and beauty. Wilkerson’s stunning debut illuminates the journey of sisters and the generations they bear, the hope they have for the future, and the future still strived for, still deferred, giving us all of this in razor-edged prose that cuts to the quick.” ―Dana Johnson, author of In the Not Quite Dark and Elsewhere, California

“Margaret Wilkerson Sexton’s A Kind of Freedom is an elegant, captivating, and generous debut novel. I’m still thinking about how our choices are indelibly influenced by our familial histories, whether we’re aware or not, and how the present connects to the past, especially regarding the societal weight of race and class. Through the interweaving of narratives within a family in New Orleans, particularly a matrilineal generation of sisters―from 1944 to the 80s and beyond―Wilkerson Sexton demonstrates the complex web of fate, and how the demands and risks of human longing can be pitted against practicality and upward mobility, muddying the very definitions of success when it comes to survival and love. Our lives are intertwined, Wilkerson Sexton reveals, and despite our best selves and our most loving intentions, heartbreak is often inevitable. With seemingly effortless subtlety and command, Wilkerson Sexton delivers. A Kind of Freedom is multifaceted and beautiful.” ―Victoria Patterson, author of This Vacant Paradise and The Little Brother

“I give thanks to Margaret Wilkerson Sexton for her remarkable sense of a family’s life, from early in its morning to day’s end. She interweaves generations of parent-child relations to reveal, with sharp insight, how promise and possibility can sometimes yield to circumstances shaped by the limits to freedom.” ―Lauret Savoy, author of Trace

“Here’s the thing about this debut: while the story Margaret Wilkerson Sexton tells of three generations in New Orleans is absolutely brilliant, the prose so beautiful at times I underlined phrases, what is most remarkable are the parts that she didn’t include. It takes great skill to satisfy a reader and also leave them puzzling over the untold parts. Margaret Wilkerson Sexton’s A Kind of Freedom is quietly epic. I dare you to not fall in love with Evelyn, Jackie, and T.C. (And I’m secretly waiting for the film rights to be sold; it would be a brilliant movie, if done right!)” ―Rachel Watkins, bookseller, Avid Bookshop (Athens, GA)

“This is a remarkable book, covering three generations of a Creole family in New Orleans. In the 40s of World War II, Evelyn falls in love with a poor but striving boy and has to manage her family’s expectations to become her own person. In the 80s, her daughter Jackie navigates how to trust her husband, a recovering crack addict who returns to her life when their son is still an infant. And in the post-Katrina New Orleans of 2010, Jackie’s son T.C. emerges from prison to try to make something of himself in the eyes of his family and his pregnant girlfriend, only to find the system and old friends from the neighborhood make it hard to pull himself up. Despite the systemic oppression the characters face, they have hope; even though I was infuriated at the cycles of poverty, drug abuse, and imprisonment, I couldn’t help but root for the characters in Margaret Wilkerson Sexton’s glorious debut.” ―Jamie Thomas, bookseller, Women & Children First (Chicago, IL)

“I loved the different generations in A Kind of Freedom, beginning with the parents of Evelyn and Ruby, who seem so proper and clean, to present-generation T.C., a very likable, hopeful character, but one whose circumstances involve him in drugs and prison. I found the evolution of the family to present day sad but fascinating, and I couldn’t help but root for every single character. In the end, you still feel hopeful despite it all.” ―Margot Farris, bookseller, pages: a bookstore (Manhattan Beach, CA)

“[A] stunning debut novel . . . The book’s greatest strength lies in its characters. Evelyn, Jackie, T.C., and their family and friends are remarkably well developed, creating in the reader a wrenching empathy to their plights . . . A whole-hearted book that couldn’t be timelier, A Kind of Freedom challenges, illuminates, and inspires.” —The Riveter Magazine

“This moving debut is ingeniously told in its passage back and forth through lives and changing times. Sexton’s portrayal of the intersection of character and circumstance is astute and nuanced, showing how adversity is amplified by each era’s racial injustice.” —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

“As tragic as it is necessary. Each character is compelling and nuanced, making the reader all the more sorry to leave them at book’s end.” —Shondaland

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