Author: Kaitlyn Greenidge
Title: We Love You, Charlie Freeman
Publication Info: Chapel Hill, North Carolina : Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2016
This book is difficult to describe in a few sentences. The Freeman family moves from Dorchester to a rural town in Western Massachusetts where they will live in an apartment at the Toneybee Research Institute with a chimpanzee named Charlie. They are part of an experiment to teach a chimpanzee to communicate and were chosen because the children know how to use sign language. There are some immediate racial overtones as the Freemans are an African American family constantly being observed by the white research staff at the institute and it is located in a predominately white town adjacent to a predominantly black town. The book is told from multiple points of view, although the key narrative voice belongs to Charlotte, the older daughter who is the first to feel unease at the institute and at her high school. There are also flashbacks to 1929 where the story of a woman named Nymphadora, a school teacher and member of a secretive society of African American women, reveals the dark origins of the Toneybee Institute. This is a distressing book because it documents the unraveling of the Freeman family set against continuing racial prejudice. It’s upsetting since no character really intends to cause harm by under the circumstances their actions lead to sadness and suffering.
Recommended books: Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, Bailey’s Cafe by Gloria Naylor, and In Love & Trouble by Alice Walker