A Kind of Freedom is a three generational exploration of America’s broken promises as seen through one African American family in New Orleans. There is Evelyn in 1944, falling in love with Renard, a man who hopes his military service and that of other black men will lead to a future with equality. Her father, a physician, is disappointed in her choice of Renard, hoping his standing and hard work could lift his children up out of poverty and struggle. Evelyn’s daughter Jackie is married with a young child in 1986. Her husband is struggling with crack addiction, losing his job, and not being able to find and keep another. In 2010, her son T.C. is just getting out of prison for dealing marijuana. This family, despite all the good will, hard work and striving is on a downhill slide from upper middle-class gentility to poverty and prison.
The reasons for that slide are many, but among them are the despair and alienation caused by systemic racism. Jackie’s husband starts taking drugs along with his white co-workers, but only he loses his job. Once the doubt begins, it takes over his life, his family doubts him and he doubts himself. After Katrina, in the ruins of black New Orleans, jobs and opportunities are few and far between. In 2010, Jackie’s son, T.C. grows marijuana and his story opens with his release from prison.
Characters make poor choices, but there is no latitude for poor choices in an unequal world. A slightly higher percentage of White Americans use drugs than Black Americans, yet Black people are incarcerated at wildly disproportionate rates. There really is a different criminal justice system for Whites and Blacks, the one offered diversion and therapy, the other sent to prison. One of the elements of white privilege is the luxury of making dumb decisions. These people have no such latitude and each generation spirals downward.
A Kind of Freedom succeeds in showing the humanity, the love, and the connections of these three generations. Despite all that happens, there is always hope and this family keeps hope alive despite their struggles. Even in his prison cell, T.C. hopes for a better future for him and for his son, the next generation whose story is still unknown. Hope is such a human emotion and it rises new and fresh in every generation.
A Kind of Freedom will be released on August 8th. I received an e-galley from the publisher through Edelweiss.