The Summer We Got Free by Mia McKenzie
The Summer We Got Free is the debut literary novel by award-winning writer Mia McKenzie. It is the WINNER of the 2013 Lambda Literary Award for Debut Fiction.
At one time a wild young girl and a brilliant artist, Ava Delaney changes dramatically after a violent event that rocks her entire family. Once loved and respected in their community and in their church, the Delaney’s are ostracized by their neighbors, led by their church leader, and a seventeen-year feud ensues. Ava and her family are displaced from the community even as they continue to live within it, trapped inside their creaky, shadowy old house. When a mysterious woman arrives unexpectedly for a visit, her presence stirs up the past and ghosts and other restless things begin to emerge. At the same time, something is reignited in Ava: the indifferent woman she has become begins to give way to the wild girl, and the passionate artist, she used to be. But not without a struggle that threatens her life.
Praise for TSWGF:
"… ACHINGLY POIGNANT, LASER-LIKE IN ITS FACILITY AND EFFECT..."
"Are you interested in a novel that is simultaneously critical social commentary, ghost story, murder mystery, and queer love story? If you were interested in such a novel, would it matter to you that the craft of the writing is deceptively plain, and in that simplicity, achingly poignant, laser-like in its facility and effect? Me too. I love that. Finally, if you found out that the author was a fiercely brilliant black queer woman, who layers on discovery, insularity and secrets with a deft touch, would you be queuing up to get a copy of this book? Thought so."
--Dawn Robinson, Lambda Literary Review
“...A BRILLIANT TAPESTRY FILLED WITH EXUBERANCE AND ANXIETY...”
"McKenzie’s language calls to mind both Toni Morrison and Cherry Muhanji,
in her expert use...and its ability to convey mystery, tenderness and
terror while still being deceptively ordinary.”
--Jewelle Gomez, American author, poet, critic and playwright
“...MAKES YOU MOAN OR, AS I DID, READ PASSAGES ALOUD AND NEGLECT SLEEP FOR WANT OF THE NEXT SAVORY MORSEL!”
masterful weaving of narrative belies an inaugural effort yet it is
clearly an afrofuturistic vision of healing transformation and an
affirmation that we have what we need. The text is saturated with an
effortless queerity and a brush of magical realism that show what's
possible when you focus off center.”
-- Moya Bailey, writer, Crunk Feminist Collective
This book is aggravation - the writing is so beautiful and the imagery so real, and the characters and dialogue so lifelike, that you don't want to put it down. But you also don't want to read too fast because that would make it end, and who wants to leave perfection? In other words, I loved reading this book. McKenzie's descriptions of sensory experiences are a joy - I felt like I could taste and see and hear and feel right along with the characters. It doesn't read like a debut, in my opinion, but instead has a confident, clear voice that sings a tale that should resonate with all readers.
A few minutes ago I finished this book. And honestly, after the last page, I just sat and cried. The fullness of this book. The fullness of our lives as black folks, with our secrets and our shame and our rage and our desire... Wow. This novel is one of the most inspiring and powerful things that I have ever read. I'm so grateful to have come across it and so grateful for Mia for writing it. So, so grateful. You really should read it, i think you will be grateful too. And maybe just maybe a little more free. #grateful
The Summer We Got Free is an exceptional novel. It's that rare book that sparkles in my hands, and almost makes me late for work because reading the next sentence is more important than getting off at the right subway stop. Mia McKenzie’s language is lyrical, musical, precise, and richly layered with a multitude of colors and textures, yet light and flowing and easy to follow. Her characters sing from the page, and their voices are so human, so vulnerable, that it’s as if they are old friends revealing the truths of their lives in an intimate café. Ava Delaney in particular is a beautifully, subtly detailed character; I had a hard time saying goodbye to her when I was on the last page. I love the novel’s queerness, both in its content and style. McKenzie weaves her character’s stories together in a masterful knot, and then releases it with a magical touch that leaves us breathless, amazed, and free. Read this book!
Very well done! I'm sure everyone can relate to the themes of expectations, family, spirituality, fear and how all of these things shape your life. Loved the way the author displayed how people struggle to just be their most authentic self. Highly recommend. Can't wait to read more of her work in the future.
An amazing read! It's been years since I last enjoyed a novel as engaging and wonderfully written as The Summer We Got Free. Mia McKenzie does a masterful job of weaving a story that is at once haunting and life-affirming, suspenseful and soulful. Now I am reading it again for the second time in a week, and find myself just as captivated as I was the first time (despite knowing how the tale turns out). Five Stars!!