You Are Free
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You Are Free

3.49 of 5 stars 3.49  ·  rating details  ·  362 ratings  ·  74 reviews
From the bestselling author of Caucasia, riveting, unexpected stories about identity under the influence of appearances, attachments, and longing.

Each of these eight remarkable stories by Danzy Senna tightrope-walks tantalizingly, sometimes frighteningly, between defined states: life with and without mates and children, the familiar if constraining reference points provi...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published May 3rd 2011 by Riverhead Trade
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The stories in this collection start out fresh and startling in all the right ways: characters' motivations are relatable but their actions aren't too predictable; the dialogue is spare and realistic.

But about half-through, the stories become a bit redundant. Every protag is a biracial, similar-aged married or cohabitating woman (with the exception of maybe one). People are almost constantly described by their complexions. Dreadlocks are mentioned really frequently. The husbands/love interests a...more
Carolyn Moncel
Years ago I fell in love with Danzy Senna's first book, Caucasia. Her talent for storytelling continues in this new collection of short stories called, You are Free: Stories. This collection contains seven short stories, all centered around biracial characters who are trying to figure out what it means to be free in a perhaps, post-racial world. Judging by the characters' actions and behavior, the jury still might be out on if that world has come into being yet.

While this unique vantage point wa...more
First, a big thank you to the Goodreads First-Reads program and Penguin books for an advanced copy of YOU ARE FREE. Below is my review...

What does it mean to be biracial and free in postmillennial America? The writer James Baldwin is quoted as saying, “Freedom is something that people take and people are as free as they want to be.”

By that definition, do the young interracial women that inhabit Danzy Senna’s first collection of short stories want to be free? Or do they want to belong to a collec...more
I have a complicated relationship with the characters in this book. The stories in this book share the common theme of race, place, motherhood and caretaking. I respect Senna for not glossing over the more brutal aspects of child birth and its aftermath, such as tearing and nipples that look like they've been through a meat grinder (my words not hers). The lead characters are primarily multiracial or mixed black women who are basking in their status as mothers' while they view others whom do not...more
Whoopee! I received a free copy of this book in the drawing. Thank you so much for all the drawings that appear on "Good Reads"! It is so much fun to receive a book in the mail. This book has many interesting story lines in its short stories. I'd read with interest. However, the endings felt unfinished & left me wondering what the message was that I should've taken away. Guess ya just gotta spell it out for me 'cuz I don't get it. I get the general idea, of course, but prefer to read a more...more
(FTC disclosure: I won this great book in the Goodreads Firstreads giveaway.)

The short story genre is, I believe, overlooked and underrated, and this fine collection proves that. These eight stories, though different from each other, are all fun to read.

I'm not a writer, but I would imagine writing a short story is in some ways more of a challenge than writing a novel, because of the "space limitations," making character development difficult. This does not seem to be the case for this author,...more
Look: I'm glad this book exists. I don't encounter mixed race protagonists enough in fiction, and there's a lot of us out there, so...what? No one feels like thinking about it? However, Senna's stories are not getting it done. And by "getting it done," I mean, writing fiction that contains a certain element without being overly message-y about that element. Or even writing fiction that contains a certain element without consistently bringing weirdly, possibly personal biases to the story. For ex...more
Senna's particular take on race--she's biracial and looks white--is fascinating. Each story is a variation on this theme (along with marriage vs. singlehood, motherhood vs. no kids, and the exact moment a relationship begins to fracture).

This woman can write! Her style is very pared down and direct, but each line is so vivid that you feel you're watching a movie. Her characters and dialogue feel real. Plot is psychological and unconventional.

She does not identify at all with her Caucasianess; th...more
May 20, 2011 Ale rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2011
I wanted terribly to like this book, but I just felt either lost or uncomfortable with some of the stories. I’ll be the first to admit that I probably didn’t get the entire concept of each narrative. The endings felt unfinished and left me at a loss. I’m a person of mixed race and even I couldn’t identify with many of the frustrations of most, if not all of the characters. It all felt a little forced and overdramatic. However, with that being said, I did find the tales rather captivating. As ann...more
Oh this book is kind of a mess. The writing is competent and each story has a lot of unrealized potential but the stories are a bland blur of the same themes over and over. There are few remarkable moments that really make you want to keep reading. Also, all the men have dreadlocks and the women have corkscrew curls. It's as if there's only one way to describe people.
Rashmi Tiwari
This short story collection is SUPER dark, to the point where I was uncomfortable with a couple of the characters' seeming lack of motivation for their terrible actions. That being said, I usually do not mind either quality (life can be a fucking mess, right?) but these stories seemed heavy-handed for their own sake, like I could watch the author thinking to herself, "How can I add some SERIOUS tension?" and then throwing in a truly awful person/situation (there is dog-beating and child neglect...more
You Are Free consists of 8 short stories about women and identity. The women in the stories are multi-racial/bi-racial, just as the author is and it gives both an interesting and authentic vantage point, and though I couldn't relate to that, I could definitely relate to the characters and the stories. The stories all center on women and the identities they have or are perceived to have. They are all trying to find where they belong. Do they not belong because of their uniqueness or do they belon...more
I received this book as part of the First-Reads giveaway, and so thank you to both Goodreads and Penguin books for the advance copy!

I find books that deal with race, identity and gender issues particularly appealing, and this collection of 8 short stories focused on exactly these areas.

The title of the book, You Are Free, says a lot about the various characters struggling to find an identity in a heterogenous society. On the surface, the female characters appear to fit a certain mold or niche...more
Oct 19, 2011 Yola rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Yola by: Goodreads Freebie
The fictional biracial women who Danzy Senna writes about are a melancholic, yet deep lot. They are uncomfortable with with so-called privilege that society (particularly African American) assumes they have because they have a light skinned appearance. And it affects their sense of self and their world.

In my opinion the best written stories in this collection are Triptych, The Land of Beulah, and Replacement Theory.

I've also noticed that these heterosexual African American women have somewhat s...more
Kelsey Moak
I was pulled into this collection of short stories slowly. The characters are flawed and often unlikable, and the outcomes of the stories are usually disquieting. But as I read on and noticed the motifs woven throughout I really enjoyed this collection by Causasia author Danzy Senna.

All of the characters are women, and most of them are bi-racial, allowing for an exploration of identity, cultural boundaries, and prejudices, both enforced and self-imposed. Rather than pointing a blaming finger at...more
This book is like a kaleidoscope. Each story hones in on a discreet life experience of a multi-racial woman in her 30s, and frames that experience in a very personal, emotional way.

When one story ends, the next story is a completely new image, but all these elements are still the same. Each one is about identity and its ties to race, gender, and family. Each one is told from deep inside the experience (and memories and emotions) of its protagonist. Each one has something to say about the sacrif...more
You Are Free: Stories by Danzy Senna reminds me of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow is not Enough by Ntozake Shange and The Women of Brewster's Place by Gloria Naylor or shows like "Girlfriends" and "Sex in the City". All of these books and shows shift from character to character as they reveal unique aspects of the characters life, however, based on a common theme. Senna writes of the various experiences of women who look white but are actually mixed (black) and th...more
Brandy Shark
What I love about Senna's books, is that they are all quick reads. But just because they're quick, it doesn't negate the freshness and raw feel of the stories. She has a gift with words, her prose streaming across the page quick and beautiful, even if I don't quite care or sympathize with the characters at hand. When ever I pick up one of her books, I usually finish it within the day because I can't put it down, just like with this collection.

Some of the stories, I didn't care much for the narra...more
I really liked the writing , the stories were amazing, but after a while all the main characters blended into each other. The women were almost all mothers of young children, they felt alone and conflicted about their role and the men were no good and unreliable. The book started out very strong and surprising and then fizzled out.
8 stories about biracial individuals and couples. It's a quick read-- less than 220 pages, but even with the short length, it packs a punch. The author is not afraid to describe uncomfortable situations: a dog passing gas, a frustrated woman beating a dog, a woman giving out unwanted advice...The author makes the characters too real-life for comfort, but of course it works. The second story "The Land of Beaulah" was so painful to read for someone I knew that she dissed it to everyone and refused...more
Rich Jones
Absolutely incredible stories. I had to stop after practically every one to "sit a beat" and consider what I'd read. Danzy Senna writes poetically without resorting to a lofty vocabulary or phrasing. She's a real storyteller, and I cannot wait to read Caucasia someday soon.
Tanya Patrice
More like 3.5.

This collection consists of 8 short stories about women and identity. The women were going through things and trying to cope - either with perceptions of their race, or with going through new phases in life - breakups & motherhood. The book is definitely ... deep & a little dark/ somber. My favorite stories were Admission, The Land of Beulah (hard to read this one about animal abuse) and You are Free. But the rest of the stories sort of felt lacking, too short & a littl...more
Soooo wonderful. So real. So different from the average short story collection. So soothing in its portrayal of relationships, interraciality, biraciality, adulthood. It seems silly, but it made me feel like my future is going to be okay. Also, it's just wonderfully written. Better than Symptomatic, and made me want to pick up Caucasia again, because it's been so many years since I read it.

It also struck me as I read this that short story collections are, I think, uniquely and specifically tied...more
I so loved these short stories. Provocative yet oddly familiar, I found myself at home in my own Brooklyn backyard amongst people I know and love. A homage to the diversity that is Brooklyn.
Dr. Marcia Chatelain
As an infrequent reader of fiction, I was more excited to read something by Senna rather than actually read short stories. This is a fantastic collection, written with heart and humor. Senna has a gift for capturing women's lives and the foibles of marriage, parenthood, friendships and our relationships with our own self. "Triptych," "You are Free," "The Car of the Self," and my favorite, "What's the Matter With Helga and Dave?" "Helga and Dave" features the most brilliant tirade against "The Co...more
I really enjoyed this book. (It even skipped a few places on my to-read list!) Race, gender, and class have always been sensitive subjects and this book really makes you pause and wonder. This book inspired so many new thoughts, perspectives, and ideas in my own thinking, the stories will stick with me. It was refreshing. It is not every day you pick up a book like this one. The stories are so wonderfully written, Replacement theory was my favorite of the group. I recommend this book to people o...more
Sep 14, 2011 Betsy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: all
What's fresh and interesting about these short stories is the perspective - one that is becoming increasingly common as the nation's demographics change. The author is mixed race - black and white parents - and the stories directly or indirectly address what it is like to be upper middle class mixed race in the U.S., whether it be how this affects your kids' chances of getting into a fancy preschool in Los Angeles or how it affects relationships with other mixed race couples.
I loved Caucasia and have been waiting for something else from Danzy Senna for years now. You are Free didn't disappoint, with engaging characters and complementary themes about identity (all of the stories revolve around mixed-race women, many of whom are also new mothers). I gobbled up these stories over the course of a few hours and am back to eagerly waiting for her next book.
Firstly, I love Danzy Senna and her laid back writing style. Secondly, I loved the colorful characters she created. Each one of these short stories could have easily been plucked out to become full novels all by themselves. I had to put the book down on numerous occasions so I wouldn't read them straight through and after each story it took me a minute before I could go on to the next. My favorite story was "The Care of the Self". The next runner up is Triptych.
If there is such a problem as a collection of stories being too cohesive, this collection suffers from that problem. The characters and situations are quite unvaried from story to story, and for a book that purports to somehow tackle the race issue, I found it did so in a way that is so understated that it really fails to get at anything. Although the collection is well written and edited, it's not very surprising. It might be of interest to new mothers.
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Danzy Senna is an American novelist, born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts in 1970. Her parents, Carl Senna, an Afro-Mexican poet and author, and Fanny Howe, who is Irish-American writer, were also civil rights activists.

She attended Stanford University and received an MFA from the University of California at Irvine. There, she received several creative writing awards.

Her debut novel, Caucasia...more
More about Danzy Senna...
Caucasia Symptomatic Where Did You Sleep Last Night?: A Personal History Mixed: An Anthology of Short Fiction on the Multiracial Experience Gumbo A Celebration of African American Writers

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