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9781573220910

Caucasia: A Novel

Senna, Danzy Author

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Birdie and Cole are the daughters of a black father and a white mother, intellectuals and activists in the Civil Rights Movement in 1970s Boston. The sisters are so close that they have created a private language, yet to the outside world they can't be sisters: Birdie appears to be white, while Cole is dark enough to fit in with the other kids at the Afrocentric school they attend. For Birdie, Cole is the mirror in which she can see her own blackness. Then their parents' marriage falls apart. Their father's new black girlfriend won't even look at Birdie, while their mother gives her life over to the Movement: at night the sisters watch mysterious men arrive with bundles shaped like rifles. One night Birdie watches her father and his girlfriend drive away with Cole-they have gone to Brazil, she will later learn, where her father hopes for a racial equality he will never find in the States. The next morning-in the belief that the Feds are after them-Birdie and her mother leave everything behind: their house and possessions, their friends, and-most disturbing of all-their identity. Passing as the daughter and wife of a deceased Jewish professor, Birdie and her mother finally make their home in New Hampshire. Desperate to find Cole, yet afraid of betraying her mother and herself to some unknown danger, Birdie must learn to navigate the white world-so that when she sets off in search of her sister, she is ready for what she will find.

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Review:

A young girl learns some difficult lessons in Danzy Senna's debut novel Caucasia. Growing up in a biracial family in 1970s Boston, Birdie has seen her family disintegrate due to the increasing racial tensions. Her father and older sister move to Brazil, where they hope to find true racial equality, while Birdie and her mother drift through the country, eventually adopting new identities (Sheila and Jesse Goldman) and settling in a small New Hampshire town.

Birdie/Jesse tries to find her niche in this new world of eye shadow and gossip and boys, but she also wants to remain true to herself and find a common ground between her white and black heritage. She sets out to find her sister and reconnect with that part of her that has been lost for so long; the search takes her far from the settled, safe life she had in New Hampshire to a far more ambiguous, and unsettled, existence, one in which her own definitions of herself become muddled, and her search for her sister leads ultimately to a search for her own true identity.

About the Author:

Danzy Senna's first novel, Caucasia, was the winner of the Book-of-the-Month Club's Stephen Crane Award for First Fiction and an American Library Association Alex Award. It was a finalist for an International IMPAC Dublin Award, and was a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year. Her short fiction and essays have been widely anthologized. She is a recipient of the 2002 Whiting Writers' Award and currently holds the Jenks Chair of Contemporary American/Letters at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts.

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