Frustrated by the limitations of cross-race communication in her predominantly white town, a young African American girl teaches herself to sign. Years later, Laurel uproots her husband and daughters from their downwardly mobile, overeducated, and underpaid life in the South End of Boston for Cortland County, Massachusetts. The Freemans are to take part in an experiment: They've been hired by a private research institute to teach sign language to a chimpanzee.
Told primarily from the point of view of Laurel's elder daughter, Charlotte, the novel shifts in time from the early 1990s to the founding of the institute in the 1930s to the present day. With language both beautiful and accessible, Greenidge examines that time in each person's life when we realize the things we thought were normal may be anything but.
"Kaitlyn Greenidge's debut novel slips a very skillful knife under the skin of American life. This is a story about family, about language, about history, and its profound echoes. In particular, she is surgically brilliant when it comes to the issue of race: She pushes the story into brand new territory. The novel does what all good art should do - it creates an appearance of ease, but then it returns to haunt and question us. This is an allegory that pays tribute to Ellison, to Morrison, to Wideman and Doctorow, and it is every bit as necessary and provocative as Colson Whitehead's The Intuitionist." (Colum McCann)
"Kaitlyn Greenidge's debut novel reminds us that is an exciting time to be reading fiction. We Love You Charlie Freeman is a masterful meditation on race, anthropology, history, and the hurly-burly complications of family. Greenidge's prose is incisive, clever, resounding with a deep intelligence. Her characters and their universes hum with yearning as they guide us into its most secret and uncanny of places. Full of humor and aching, We Love You Charlie Freeman stands to be an important debut from an important writer." (Bill Cheng, author of Southern Cross the Dog)
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- N. Madsen