A Free, Unsullied Land (Paperback)

By Maggie Kast

Fomite, 9781942515210, 370pp.

Publication Date: August 15, 2015



Nineteen-year-old Henriette Greenberg takes her first steps away from an abusive home on the dance floor of a Chicago jazz dive in prohibition-era Chicago and is enraptured by this new music. Struggling to escape a mother who doesn’t like girls and a father who likes young women all too well, she submerges herself in bad sex and political action. She meets and falls in love with Dilly Brannigan, a graduate student in anthropology. Ignoring his warnings, she travels to Scottsboro, Alabama to protest the unfair conviction of nine young black men accused of rape. She adopts Dilly’s work as her own. A powerful funeral ritual gives her hope of re-writing her family story but tempts her to violate an Apache taboo, endangering her life, her love, and her longed-for escape from home.

About the Author

Maggie Kast is the author of The Crack between the Worlds: a dancer's memoir of loss, faith and family, a chapter of which won a Literary Award from the Illinois Arts Council and a Pushcart nomination.

Praise For A Free, Unsullied Land

Henriette Greenberg is one of the most captivating and compelling characters I’ve encountered in years. A woman who wants to “invent culture from scratch,” she dives into leftist causes, travels to Alabama to protest the conviction of the Scottsboro Boys, studies Apache culture in New Mexico, and struggles with her damaged sexuality through psychoanalysis and one-night stands that haunt her relationship with the man she truly loves. At one point in the novel, Henriette tells her lover, “You should know who I am.” Reader, you should too.
—David Jauss, author of Glossolalia: New & Selected Stories, Black Maps, Crimes of Passion and On Writing Fiction

A Free, Unsullied Land is a wonderfully engaging and convincing portrait of a young woman elbowing her way past the limits of her moment in history. When she finally breathes the fresh air of political and sexual revolt, she still must learn some bracing lessons that transcend both. Maggie Kast has a terrific ear for speech and a sharp eye for the differences and similarities between depression-era and contemporary lives. Her energetic novel holds us riveted on the cusp between.
—Rosellen Brown, author of Tender Mercies and Before and After

Maggie Kast’s searching, intelligent novel is a page-turner. Few novels have so powerfully evoked the longing -- and the hope -- of individuals at the juncture in which their culture’s delusions are crumbling. In the most surprising and most wonderful ways, it is an epic novel.
—Kevin McIlvoy, author of 58 Octaves Below Middle C, The Complete History of New Mexico: Stories, Hyssop, Little Peg, The Fifth Station

Through Kast’s descriptive powers and her creation of the brilliant and thwarted Henriette, a young woman’s striving to realize herself is as magical and terrifying as Alice’s adventures in wonderland.
—Sharon Solwitz, author of Blood and Milk and Bloody Mary