Kaitlyn Greenidge - We Love You, Charlie Freeman and A. J. Verdelle - The Good Negress
Starting with Laurel Freeman’s adoption of sign language in defiance of the spoken language she mistrusts, Greenidge’s moving first novel is an imaginative and illuminating look at communication across differences. One of the few black children in Maine, Laurel is lonely and alienated, but her skill with sign makes her and her family the perfect candidates to work with the Toneybee Institute, which studies inter-species communication. The Freemans take in a chimpanzee named Charlie, and the narrative follows their efforts to teach him to talk and reach mutual understanding.
Winner of the American Academy of Arts and Letters Harold D. Vursell Memorial Award when it appeared twenty years ago, Verdelle’s debut novel charts the comingof- age of twelve-year-old Denise, who leaves the rural Virginia home she’s shared with her grandmother to return to her parents and brothers in Detroit. Vividly mapping adolescence as the rocky terrain between duty to family and an independent identity,
Verdelle, who grew up in D.C., recounts how Denise excels in school until a family crisis threatens the bright future her idealistic teacher has in mind for her.