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The Summer We Got Free

4.34  ·  Rating details ·  1,317 ratings  ·  179 reviews
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, they are ostracized by their neighbors, led by their church leader, and a seventeen-year feud between the Delaneys and the church ensues. Ava and her family are displaced ...more
Paperback, 242 pages
Published November 19th 2012 by Black Girl Dangerous Press
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Cendaquenta It doesn't have an entirely happy ending, if that's what you mean, but I definitely thought it was satisfying and worked well to tie up the story.…moreIt doesn't have an entirely happy ending, if that's what you mean, but I definitely thought it was satisfying and worked well to tie up the story.(less)

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Average rating 4.34  · 
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 ·  1,317 ratings  ·  179 reviews

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Feb 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 litt ...more
Latanya (Crafty Scribbles)
“Don’t tell me what I am,” she said. “I get to say what I am.”

Ghosts manifest via various entities. They exist in haunted, roaming room to room, seeking aimless shelter until their needs in their former world jibe with their spectral form.

Sometimes those haunted dwellings consist not of brick and mortar, but of blood and DNA. In Mia McKenzie’s The Summer We Got Free, a family exorcises ghosts struggling to keep their existence within the souls and walls of their unfortunate hosts: The Delaney Fa
Jun 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
In focus and structure this bore a lot of resemblance to another book I read recently, Preeta Samarasan's Evening is the Whole Day, so much so that I wondered if there's anything about the historical moment that precipitates stories of sad, damaged families and their ghosts and their haunted houses, because it doesn't seem likely from the authors' comments on their processes that one of these books inspired or influenced the other. Like Evening, this book reminded me of Toni Morrison in its lovi ...more
Feb 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
i read this fast the first time around. maybe i was cranky. in fact, i was definitely cranky. it was summer and i was reading books quickly in order to select two or three for class. when i read this the first time i thought, nice, but it could use a strong editorial hand. that's what i thought, "a strong editorial hand." can you think of a more hackneyed, a more patronizing way to think about a book? gah.

apart from two or three typos, this book is perfect. and beautiful. and happy. and also sa
Jason Sloan
Dec 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is a beautifully-crafted story that is at times haunting and deeply sad, yet ultimately stands as a happy testament to the power of self-acceptance and self-realization. Wonderfully written and emotionally honest, The Summer We Got Free is both highly enjoyable and decidedly thought-provoking. Best original story I have read in years! Bravo, Mia McKenzie!
Jun 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I can't remember the last time I was so engrossed in a book. I haven't read any fiction in a long time, and this grabbed me immediately and held me in rapture the whole time. Mia McKenzie's writing is beautiful and tender; the story is compelling and contains truths that all readers should be able to appreciate. Much of what I loved most was the recognition of my own and my community's best and worst qualities in some of the characters, the descriptions of their thoughts revealing compromises an ...more
May 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. By turns searing and soaring, this book explores the long-term implications of the hypocrisy of the Christian Church, the self-loathing it encourages, and the danger of secrets and lies. Wonderfully written, carefully crafted. An amazing debut novel.
Faith Reidenbach
Feb 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Read and heartily endorsed by the Corvallis Lesbian Book Group here on Goodreads:

This novel, winner of a Lambda Literary Award, will be made into an indie film someday. You heard it here first. Trust the familiar instinct you've developed by comparing books with movies all your life: stick with the book. Like most writers, the movie director will probably have trouble sustaining a sense of suspense and forward progression when the story is flipping back an
Kat B.
Jul 25, 2013 rated it liked it
At first I had a hard time getting into this book because the story unfolds slowly and carefully. However, once the character's secrets were divulged and the mysteries of the creepy house emerged, McKenzie's magical realism and finespun prose pulled me in. It was interesting, too, because at times her writing sprawls out and the story is like a canoe ride on the quietest lake, and other times it turns the corner abruptly and you're seeing something you hadn't expected. McKenzie mostly focuses on ...more
L. Cherelle
Jul 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
The story opens in 1976 in West Philadelphia at the Delaney family home. It’s a neglected dwelling that mirrors the emotional and spiritual state of the five-member family. Thirty-year-old Ava (the protagonist) resides with her husband (Paul), older sister (Sarah), and parents (Regina and George). George had moved his wife and small children from the Deep South with the hope of a better life, but a violent event wiped the semblance of happiness from their lives, causing the Delaney’s to live und ...more
Maya B
Jul 26, 2017 rated it it was ok
interesting group of characters with a VERY slow moving plot. the story came together in the end
Stef Rozitis
Jun 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lesbian, 5-star, queer
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
C.E. G
Jun 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: queer-fiction
17 years after a traumatic loss, a family is forced to confront what happened when a strange woman arrives at their door. Covering a range of experiences including being on the down low, politics in the Black Church, and grief, The Summer We Got Free is both a mystery and coming out story.

I've been reading a lot of nonfiction lately, and it's taking something pretty engrossing to get me hooked on a fiction book (last success: Boy, Snow, Bird). The Summer We Got Free hooked me within 15 pages and
Rory Gilmore
Oct 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book is incredible. Even browsing the other reviews it's evident how different they are from other books, more emotional and deep.

All I can say is this book affected me more powerfully than any book I've read in a very long time. It's too bad I finished it while at work, because I really needed to have a long cry from the journey of it all. A wonderful story celebrating queerness, black lives and family, spirituality, art, and womanhood. Mia Mckenzie (of the blog Black Girl Dangerous ) is a
Jul 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
After following Mia McKenzie's blog Black Girl Dangerous for a long time, I was curious to read this fiction offering. McKenzie's multidecade story is tender, rapturous, sensual, and full, unfolding slowly and holding the truth of human joy and trauma. The text's magical metaphor-filled quality made the realness that much more powerful. ...more
Aug 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own
Beautifully written and descriptive. The story, with its twists and turns, complicated characters, and history is well told and full of emotion you can feel. Amazing!
Oct 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I just really enjoyed this book from start to finish.
Feb 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was beautiful and painful and also perfect.
Sep 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The Summer We got Free is....honest, brave, fulfilling, daring. Ava and Helena, two of the main characters, challenge not only their family and Philly community, but us as readers, to look inside of ourselves and figure out what force is holding us back from being free. Although some community members can see that Ava's "wildness" is not only harmless, but actually a positive thing, most others see it as dangerous, harmful, disobedience, and something that needs to be destroyed. I think their fe ...more
Oct 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
I definitely recommend this book :D I'm not gonna say it's perfect. It starts so slow that there were times in the first quarter or so of the book that I almost gave up on it, and there are quite a few moderately long paragraphs throughout the book that just /list/ things or chores or people and bored me to death. But from about a third of the way through, the book was honestly difficult to put down, even in the long descriptive passages (which also seemed to get less listy and more poetic over ...more
Terri Bakker
Aug 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book is beautifully written. Not only do you get drawn in from the very first page until the last, but the struggle that each individual has to deal with has a lot to say to all of us in our journey through life.
P. 93: "Not only did no one talk about the long-dead, but no one not-talked about them, either. The oiliness of unsaid things, which usually hung over them all like particles of cooking grease in the just-used kitchen, seemed lessened."
Jul 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
What a remarkable read. This book explores self awareness and the ability to be ok with who you are before others can be ok with it too. Getting to know the characters in this book was a pleasure. I hated some of the characters, I loved some of the others and could not figure out how I felt about a couple of them. I highly recommend this book, turning these pages and discovering hidden secrets was a joy.
Feb 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
great story, lots of twists and turns and revelations that never feel melodramatic or unreal. I understand it's a first novel & self-published, which explains the issues I had with the editing...definitely wanted to pick up my red pen a couple times. so, looking forward to reading whatever's next from her! ...more
Dec 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Black Girl Dangerous—Hey groovy white people, Google this immediately. Search for the post on reverse racism or how to oppress white people. If I weren't so clumsy I'd put up the link, but I'm guessing your fingers work better than mine do.

And oh yeah, buy all yr books from local independent bookstores or I'll tear your nose off and eat it.
Nov 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Probably a 4.5 because it didn't totally blow me away, but this book is pretty amazing. I don't think I would have ever heard of it if it hadn't been my book club's pick for this month, which is a real shame. ...more
Apr 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to kat by: book club!
This book is extraordinary. I'm super happy my book club picked it because it's not the sort of thing I would normally have read (well, it turned out to be, but based on the description I wouldn't have picked it up). But seriously... it's fantastic. ...more
Apr 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: qtpoc-fiction
One of my all time favorite fictions. Black queer themes, murder mystery, ancestors, ghosts, family dynamics, church community dynamics, self development, self love. This book is really close to my heart
Terra Holman
Oct 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013
Loved Ava Delaney. Quite possibly one of the best characters in all of the books I've read. ...more
Jan 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Combines beautiful language with masterful storytelling and raw emotion. A rich and immersive read.
Beautifully written, masterfully crafted, fucking devastating. One of the best books I've read in a long time. ...more
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Black Coffee: July '17: The Summer We Got Free 59 88 Aug 08, 2017 09:11AM  

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Mia McKenzie studied writing at the University of Pittsburgh. She's a smart, scrappy Philadelphian (now living in the bay area) with a deep love of vegan pomegranate ice cream and fake fur collars. She is a black feminist and a freaking queer, facts that are often reflected in her writings.

Her short stories have appeared in The Kenyon Review (Spring 2013) and make/shift (Spring 2013). Her recent l

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57 likes · 9 comments
“A long time ago, when you were a wee thing, you learned something, some way to cope, something that, if you did it, would help you survive. It wasn't the healthiest thing, it wasn't gonna get you free, but it was gonna keep you alive. You learned it, at five or six, and it worked, it *did* help you survive. You carried it with you all your life, used it whenever you needed it. It got you out--out of your assbackwards town, away from an abuser, out of range of your mother's un-love. Or whatever. It worked for you. You're still here now partly because of this thing that you learned. The thing is, though, at some point you stopped needing it. At some point, you got far enough away, surrounded yourself with people who love you. You survived. And because you survived, you now had a shot at more than just staying alive. You had a shot now at getting free. But that thing that you learned when you were five was not then and is not now designed to help you be free. It is designed only to help you survive. And, in fact, it keeps you from being free. You need to figure out what this thing is and work your ass off to un-learn it. Because the things we learn to do to survive at all costs are not the things that will help us get FREE. Getting free is a whole different journey altogether.” 18 likes
“Don't tell me what I am," she said. "I get to say what I am.” 11 likes
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