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You Are Free

3.58  ·  Rating Details  ·  486 Ratings  ·  94 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 prov
Paperback, 240 pages
Published May 3rd 2011 by Riverhead Books
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Jun 27, 2011 stacia rated it liked it
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
Mar 09, 2011 Jill rated it liked it
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
Carolyn Moncel
Aug 01, 2011 Carolyn Moncel rated it really liked it
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
Apr 08, 2012 Chandra rated it liked it
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
Mar 27, 2011 Lola rated it did not like it
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
Carla JFCL
Mar 31, 2011 Carla JFCL rated it really liked it
(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,
Jul 24, 2011 Pamela rated it it was ok
Shelves: mixed-race
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
Aug 22, 2012 Charlotte rated it really liked it
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
Ale Egler
May 20, 2011 Ale Egler rated it it was ok
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
Sep 19, 2015 Emily rated it it was ok
These stories all had a creepy vibe that just didn't do it for me.
Li Sian
Mar 15, 2015 Li Sian rated it really liked it
Short stories by Danzy Senna. I really enjoyed Senna's debut - earnest bildungsroman about a mixed-race girl growing up in the 70s - when I read it some four years ago, and this short story collection was enjoyable too, but in a different way. For one thing, Senna's come up all caustic, which I like and wasn't unexpected - I also recommend her essay in Half and Half: Writers on Growing Up Biracial and Bicultural (edited by Claudine Chiawei O'Hearn) for some Senna-style caustic smackdown. Anyway, ...more
Erika Schoeps
May 27, 2016 Erika Schoeps rated it really liked it
Shelves: diversity-reads
Quick and easy, but not unaffecting.

A collection of short stories in which the main character is a mixed-race woman. She deals with marital, romantic, and domestic issues. These are all stories that are quietly chilling; a slow burn that creeps in and nests under your skin before you could sense that it got there.

All of the characters are resilient, and even at their worst moments, you can just feel that everything will be all right in the end. The title "You Are Free" refers to the horrible p
Jul 28, 2012 Roxane rated it it was ok
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.
Aug 17, 2015 Dawn rated it really liked it
I was leery of reading this book. "Caucasia" is one of my favorites, and when I have a favorite book, I tend to compare the author's other books to it. Unfair sometimes, I know, but nevertheless, there it is. Having said that, I must also say that I really enjoyed "You are Free." I loved that I could read a short story at a time and not feel the pressure of finishing it before tackling other texts. I loved most of the women in the book, although a couple of the women left something to be desired ...more
Joshunda Sanders
Jul 08, 2011 Joshunda Sanders rated it liked it
Danzy Senna is a beautiful writer. This is a repetitive collection of stories with some great moments, insights and scenes, but it's stuck in a mixed-people middle class groove that made it hard to really like.
Rashmi Tiwari
Jul 20, 2014 Rashmi Tiwari rated it liked it
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
Jun 04, 2016 Abby rated it liked it
Senna is a talented writer. She writes about motherhood, relationships, and navigating the world as a person of (ambiguous) color with thoughtfulness and introspection. All of her stories bring up interesting topics for exploration and discussion. However, the stories / themes can feel repetitive and unresolved after the fourth short story or so. I felt the first and last stories to be the strongest in the collection.

The stories set in Los Angeles were somewhat evocative of Mona Simpson and Joa
Mar 10, 2011 Danelle rated it really liked it
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
Mar 21, 2011 Angela rated it liked it
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
Oct 19, 2011 Yola rated it liked it
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
Kelsey O'Brien
Mar 02, 2013 Kelsey O'Brien rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
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
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
Jun 07, 2012 Raquel rated it liked it
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
Oct 15, 2012 Brandy Shark rated it really liked it
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
Dec 18, 2014 Kelechi rated it really liked it
I didnt know what to expect because I'd read nothing of Senna's work prior to this. I loved the stories. I loved that some stories made me uncomfortable in their observance of insecurities. I loved that some stories left me wanting to know more.
Danzy Senna is a brilliant and truthful writer. The stories dissect race and class in a very understated manner.
I look forward to reading more of her work.
Sep 19, 2014 Abby rated it really liked it
I read Caucasia, by this author, many years ago, and while I'm hazy on the details of the story, I remember thoroughly enjoying her fresh perspective on complex issues of racial identity. So when I saw this book of stories on the Booksmith bargains table, I couldn't resist (This is my year of reading short stories, it seems.) I love that her stories never take an easy route -- her characters are not always likeable, but they are believable, and the emotions, while often uncomfortable, feel so ho ...more
Feb 17, 2014 Helen rated it liked it
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.
Aug 15, 2011 Andrienne rated it really liked it
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
Apr 20, 2016 Mags rated it it was ok
The first story, "Admission," was interesting and cliff-hanger enough to deceive me that maybe all the stories would be worth it. I got this for free from a Goodreads draw, much like everyone else, and wasn't very kind in judging it. But the rest of the stories were almost senseless, leaving me asking "What was the point of this?" after each one was over. The author also has a cold enough heart to be able to stomach writing about violence against animals that I had to endure it repeatedly throug ...more
Jun 01, 2015 Leilani rated it liked it
Shelves: not-impressed
It is a bummer that she started off the collection with the weakest story in the book (the ending of it was so badly written, and it was wholly unbelievable). It left me with a sour taste moving forward. While the quality of the stories did get better by the end, it was not a great collection overall.
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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
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