In Caucasia, by Danzy Senna, why does Birdie come to think of herself as having "disappeared" when living as Jesse Goldman?
Caucasia begins with Birdie's recollection: "A long time ago I disappeared. One day I was here, the next I was gone."
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There are two reasons for Birdie's sense of "having disappeared." Literally, Birdie and her mother Sandy go "underground" so her mother can avoid capture by the FBI for her illegal civil rights activities.
The second reason Birdie has a sense of disappearing is that she struggles with whether she is white or black, pulled between polar opposites of a father who wrongfully believes there is no such thing as race in America and favors his "black" daughter over his "white" daughter, and her white mother as well Birdie's grandmother who believes Birdie can "pass" for white. The truth is that Birdie is caught between these two worlds and cannot find a way to fit in, in either.
Jesse Goldman is not who Birdie truly is: it's as far a stretch from a white-skinned black girl as she attempt to go, but once again, she does not find a place where she truly belongs. In answer to her questions of who she is and her place in the world is, Birdie—alone—begins her journey to find her sister Cole after they are separated. Birdie believes that in searching to find Cole, she will also uncover her true identity. Whereas the rest of her life seems to be a "mass of confusion" and lacking purpose, finding Cole provides Birdie with a focus in her life, and hope for the future.