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Danzy Senna

Authority on Race and Identity


The daughter of a black father and a white mother, both writers and activists in the Civil Rights Movement, Danzy Senna grew up in Boston in the 1970s. Her experience in this intense racial battleground, a place her mother described as the worst place to raise biracial children, was to serve as the backdrop of her childhood, eventually brought to life in her first novel, Caucasia.

The novel follows the life of Birdie Lee, a young biracial girl whose racially indeterminate features serve as a racial Rorschach for those around her. Widely praised for its avoidance of the usual extremes associated with the depiction of racial themes and for going beyond the "tragic mulatto" stereotype, Caucasia was a huge success with readers and critics alike. The book won Book of the Month Club's Stephen Crane First Fiction Award and Senna received the Whiting Award in 2002.

Senna holds a M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of California, Irvine, where she received several creative writing awards. She worked as a writer and researcher for several major magazines before publishing Caucasia. Caucasia was so successful that it took years to recover from the media attention and high expectations to begin writing again. Her second novel, Symptomatic, a psychological thriller rooted in the very extremes she avoids in Caucasia, was published in 2004. She is currently at work on a non-fiction memoir of her mysterious grandmother.

In addition to fiction, Senna writes often on issues of race, identity, and gender. She currently holds the Jenks' Chair of Contemporary American Letters at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA.



Beyond the Tragic Mulatto Stereotype

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Book: Caucasia