Danzy Senna Introduction - Essay

Introduction

Danzy Senna Caucasia

Senna is an American novelist.

Danzy Senna grew up in Boston as a child of a mixed marriage. In her debut novel, Caucasia (1997), she explores issues that she faced growing up torn between two races. The novel is set in the 1970s and 1980s against the backdrop of the black power movement. Birdie is the narrator of the book, whose mother, Sandy, is a Boston WASP and political activist, ȧnd whose father, Deck, is a black intellectual. Sandy and Deck meet as a result of their political activism, and they have two girls; Birdie, who has the physical appearance of a white person, and Cole, who looks black. Although the two sisters have different experiences in the world due to their color, they are very close. It is devastating to them when their parents separate and decide to split the girls along racial lines. The "black" Cole leaves with their father in search of a color-blind society, and the "white" Birdie goes on the run with Sandy, who fears the FBI is chasing her as a result of her political activity. When her mother creates a new identity for Birdie as a Jewish girl, Birdie's sense of identity is further confused. In the end Birdie is reunited with her father and sister and attempts to embrace her true identity. The novel tackles the pain and confusion of being a member of two races, but not really belonging to either.

Critics complained that the novel slips into racial treatise which interrupts the narrative flow, but many reviewers praised Senna's characterization in the novel. Susie Linfield stated that Birdie is "a character as peculiar, particular, believable and compelling as any you are likely to encounter." Reviewers also gave Senna credit for her deft handling of a difficult subject. A Kirkus Review critic called Caucasia "[a]n accomplished novel of issues that doesn't offer any easy solutions but does poignantly evoke the pain and paradox of those caught in the racial crossfire."