A Free, Unsullied Land, by Maggie Kast

1st Place Winner for Fiction in the Wordwrite Book Awards 2016
Reviewed by Amalia Cabral

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Fomite Press, 2015

A Free, Unsullied Land is a fully-fleshed rendering of a historic period, 1927-1933, a time of Jim Crow racism, a virulent form of panic about communism, Prohibition, and the Great Depression.  Kast does not use the period as mere window dressing but instead recreates the uncertainty, fear and rather fraught exploration of the freedoms of the time – like a franker expression of sexuality, experimenting with roles of women, political activism.

The main character, Henriette Greenberg, is a perfect vehicle for channeling the stresses and opportunities of the era.  She is a puzzled seeker, a restless and dissatisfied young woman from Oak Park, Illinois finding her way through parlous times.  She is a reluctant academic, a confused sexual seeker, an untried political activist. One of the strongest parts of the novel is her naïve journey to Scottsboro to protest the conviction of innocent black men accused of rape, a journey that frightens her more than she’d expected yet at the same time anneals her growing interest in fighting injustice and oppression.

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