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.
Senna explores the complicated search for the identity of two biracial women. The first, a recent college graduate, has just arrived in New York City with a prestigious journalism fellowship. She narrates the story and remains nameless. The second character, Greta, is an older, mentally unstable woman who goes by many different names. Greta arranges for the narrator to sublet her apartment, telling her that it belongs to a friend. She develops an obsessive desire to control the narrator and eventually kidnaps her. Greta is unpleasant, ill kept, a liar, and incompetent. She is involved in a violent internal and external struggle with her mixed parentage. The narrator, the opposite in all ways, handles her own personal struggle quietly. The two characters are alter egos, but it is the narrator who survives and settles into an acceptable environment and friends with whom she can find some peace. Senna won several awards for her first novel, Caucasia, including the Stephen Crane Award for Best New Fiction of the Year. Her second novel should also be praised as thoughtful and exciting. Highly recommended for all academic and public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/03.]-Rebecca Stuhr, Grinnell Coll. Libs., IA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
A young biracial woman's postcollege year in New York proves psychologically challenging in Senna's muddled second novel. The unnamed narrator has landed a prestigious fellowship and a job as a reporter at a big New York magazine, not to mention a "strange lovely" new boyfriend who moves her into his apartment faster than she can say "nice place." But when Andrew-who thinks she's white-introduces her to his Andover pals, racist comments send her on a hunt for independence and a place of her own. An older co-worker, Greta Hicks, comes to the rescue with a sublet offer from her hairdresser's cousin; it's in a "transitional" Brooklyn neighborhood, but, hey, the rent's cheap. The narrator, habitually musing on her secret history, slowly gets used to Brooklyn style as Greta insinuates herself into her life. Her love life rebounds when she's assigned a story on talented Ivers Greene, whom Greta calls "the great ghetto artiste" and who becomes the narrator's new beau. But Greta's being creepy-she suggests they give each other bikini waxes, for one thing-and then she starts spying on the narrator, berating her, stalking her, etc. The first half of Senna's novel works in places, particularly when she outlines her narrator's growing sense of alienation from Andrew, her fatigue with racial politics and her difficulties in adapting to New York life. But the second half turns increasingly lurid and cartoonish, particularly when Greta's relationship to the wild previous occupant of the narrator's apartment is revealed. Senna addressed similar issues of race and identity with verve and panache in Caucasian, but this follow-up shows signs of the sophomore slump. Agent, Sarah Chalfant at the Wylie Agency. (May) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
"A hypnotic psychological thriller." --Essence"Read this novel." --Glamour "Thoughtful and exciting. Highly recommended." --Library Journal "Suspenseful, and the anguish her vividly relaized mixed-race characters feel when confronted with hostility from both ends of the racial spectrum is. sadly, all too authentic." --Booklist