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Danzy Senna Books In Order

Publication Order of Standalone Novels

Caucasia aka From Caucasia, with Love (1998) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Symptomatic (2004) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
New People (2017) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Publication Order of Non-Fiction Books

Where Did You Sleep Last Night? (2009) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Danzy Senna is American bestselling author and essayist. Her debut work in the publishing realm Caucasia (1998) has been translated into several languages and also won various awards. The Whiting Award winning author has published three novels, written a short story collection, a memoir and several essays themed on issues of motherhood, identity, race, and gender. Her prolific work has been featured in several publications including New York Times, Vogue and The New Yorker.

She was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Later she attended Stanford University where she graduated with a B.A and then graduated with MFA in creative writing from the University of California. Her debut novel Caucasia narrates the story of a young girl named Birdie Lee who is forced into the political underground by her mother and given an assumed identity. The later part of the story narrates her struggles for identity and her desperate search for the missing members of her family.

Caucasia

Caucasia is the debut novel and a national bestseller written by Danzy Senna. In this novel, Cole and Birdie are the daughters of a white mother and a black father, activists in the Civil Rights Movement in 1970’s Boston. These sisters are so close such that they have developed a secret language and yet to the outside world, they cannot be sisters.

Birdie is white while Cole is dark enough to mingle with other kids at Afrocentric School they attend. Birdie considers her sister Cole a mirror in which she can only see her own blackness. All of a sudden, their parent’s marriage shatters, and their father’s new girlfriend will not even associate with Birdie. While their mother is attending an event at the Movement, mysterious men arrive with tools shaped like rifles.

One night, Birdie witnesses her father and his newly found girlfriend drive away with her sister Cole. She later discovers that her father escaped to Brazil where he hopes to get racial equality something he will never find in the United States. The next morning- in the belief that federal agents are after them, Birdie and her mother escape and leave everything behind- their possessions, their house, friends and most shocking of all, their identity.

Making their way through borders and checkpoints as the wife and daughter of a slain Jewish professor, Birdie, and her mom finally makes it to their new house in New Hampshire. Willing to locate Cole but yet afraid of betraying herself and her mother of some unknown danger, Birdie must adapt to the white world so that when the time is ready for her to search for her sister, she will be ready for whatever she will find.

Caucasia is a great read seen via the eyes of Birdie, growing up as the daughter of two parents but yet alienated by the color of her skin. Regardless of skin colors, she and her sister are so close, and won’t let anything between them. Before their parents’ divorce, the two sisters color differences meant nothing to them, but once their parents parted way which resulted in their separation, the two daughters discover the extent to which their color rules other people perception about them.

The entire narrative is told from Birdie’s point of view, but although she felt just the same way as her sister, there were signs of their differences which were depicted by those around them. For example, their fathers’ girlfriend who would not look her in the eye and her white grandmother’s favoritism was evidence that their skin color meant a lot in the real world.

In her new home, Birdie starts a new life, a new school and assumes the identity of someone she is not. She accepts her new life, but the truth bubbles beneath the surface of all her interactions.

All in all, Caucasia is an intriguing coming of age tale of a young girl who must deal with more issues than growing up, being forced to assume another identity and above all growing up without a role model to guide her.

It is a perfect book with a good story and compelling characters. There are lots of moral lessons that one can learn from it, for instance, it teaches us on how race can affect our relationships with others, and how that changes in place and time. Senna’s characters are beautifully crafted, multilayered, complicated but also universal.

Are You Free

What does it mean being a biracial and free in the postmillennial America? James Baldwin, a writer, quoted that freedom is something people take & also they are free as they choose to be. By that definition, do the interracial women in Danzy Senna 1st collection of short stories want to be free? Alternatively, do they want to belong to something collective larger than themselves?

Senna, the writer of Caucasia, the child of African-Mexican poet father and a white American mother, explores the answer to this question from her unique point of view. Each of the characters in this short story collection is pushing for self-identity, and each is hopeful and longing for more. The collection is populated with doubtful women, troubled girlfriends, detached husbands, young babies, and toddlers.

First, we meet Lara, a New Yorker expecting her first byline from an unknown magazine as she tries hard to come to terms with her destiny as a childless woman. Even when she gets a mistaken phone call from a girl who claims that Lara is her mother, she tosses herself in self-denial.

Then we meet Livy, a Brooklyn native artist and a mom who has found her happiness with a Santa Fe, gallery owner. Then there is the liberal African American couple Cassie Duncan; their tension heightens when their pre-scholar is admitted to a high-class private school, and thus a decision must be made.

These women and many others featured in the short stories struggle to find their identity in a world that considers them interchangeable. Their sense of comfort only found in the community, they are intriguing, inspiring and also encouraging for those seeking a purpose in life. The stories share a common theme of place, race, motherhood, and caretaking. The main characters are mostly mixed black or multiracial women.

If you love novels that feature multiracial characters and have a theme of finding self-purpose in life, then Danzy Senna books are the ideal match for you.

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