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A Free, Unsullied Land

a novel by Maggie Kast

Chicago, 1930. Henriette Greenberg, a smart and verbal Freshman, seeks to escape a comfortable but abusive home through immersion in jazz, sex that leaves her cold, and leftist political action. She meets and falls in love with Dilly Brannigan, a poor and practical graduate student in anthropology. Ignoring his warnings, she travels to Scottsboro, Alabama, to protest the unfair conviction of nine young black men, lands in jail, and discovers evil much greater than parents. As Hitler comes to power in Germany, she loses her faith in people but finds comfort and strength in Dilly and switches her major to his field. Doing fieldwork among the Apache, she confronts an open passage between the living and the dead. This hidden dimension gives her hope of re-writing her family story but tempts her to violate an Apache taboo, thus threatening her relationship with Dilly and endangering her longed-for escape from home.

Praise for A Free, Unsullied Land

“Sex, Sacco and Vanzetti, the Scottsboro Boys, Wobblies, Hitler, Hoovervilles, the Harlem Renaissance, race relations, homosexuality, religion, Native Americans, the Ghost Dance, psychoanalysis, anthropology, poetry, and jazz: these are just some of subjects Maggie Kast addresses in A Free, Unsullied Land, her splendid portrait of the artist as a young woman coming of age in the late twenties and early thirties. Henriette Greenberg is one of the most captivating and compelling characters I’ve encountered in years. 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 (originally published as Alone With All That Could Happen)

“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, 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

“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 Before and After and Autobiography of My Mother

“Maggie Kast is a writer of conviction and compassion, and A Free, Unsullied Land brings both these things to bear on a cast of characters confronting, and yes, actualizing, some of the most persistently urgent events in all too recent American history.”

Abby Frucht, author of The Bell at the End of the Rope, Polly’s Ghost and Life before Death