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Caucasia

3.99  ·  Rating Details ·  5,444 Ratings  ·  538 Reviews
In Caucasia—Danzy Senna's extraordinary debut novel and national bestseller—Birdie and Cole are the daughters of a black father and a white mother, intellectuals and activists in the Civil Rights Movement in 1970s Boston. The sisters are so close that they have created a private language, yet to the outside world they can't be sisters: Birdie appears to be white, while Col ...more
Paperback, 413 pages
Published February 1st 1999 by Riverhead Books (first published February 2nd 1998)
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(showing 1-30)
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T.J.
May 13, 2008 T.J. rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: multiracial folk, would-be activists, human interest story readers
Recommended to T.J. by: Kris Kang
The first time I read this book was on a a rainy bus ride in the San Francisco bay area, and I surprised myself by finding myself crying, for it in many ways spoke of my own multiracial experience, albeit in highly fictionalized form.

Danzy Senna's first novel, Caucasia, is a story of traumatic dislocation, disorientation, and confused ethnic identity, set in 1970s and 80s Boston and intermittently in other places. It's the story of Birdie Lee, her older sister, and her parents--the neurotic, bro
...more
fletch
Oct 21, 2007 fletch rated it liked it
From this book came the passage that inspired the amazing Seattle hip hop duo, Canary Sing:
"The mulatto in America functions as a canary in a coal mine. Canaries were used by coal miners to gauge how poisonous the air underground was. They would bring a canary in with them, and if it grew sick and died they knew the air was bad and eventually everyone would be poisoned by the fumes. Likewise, mulattos have historically been the gauge of how poisonous American race relations were. The fate of th
...more
Claire McAlpine
Sandy is the daughter of a white New England family steeped in certain WASPish traditions and perspectives, a way she is familiar with, yet wishes to challenge both physically and vociferously. Deck Lee was one of Sandy's father's students,an intellectual, his head full of ideas, his motivation always to pursue them and commit them to paper. The two fall in love, their marriage Sandy's ultimate rebellious act, Deck is black.

But the story isn't really about these two, the intellectual and the pra
...more
Debbie
Dec 28, 2016 Debbie rated it really liked it
Caucasia was a really good novel. In fact, I had known that it was so intriguing a read, I would have read it sooner. This was a book that has been on the shelves for so long that I actually forgot about it. It may be a book that has been out for so long that many have forgotten about it because I never hear it mentioned in book circles nor have I seen it on anyone's reading list to remind us of its existence. I think it would be a great book club or discussion read because it brings up so man ...more
Barb howe
Feb 08, 2013 Barb howe rated it it was amazing
This is a perfect novel. It's not only a good story with great complicated compelling characters it really tells us a lot about the way race impacts our relationships with one another, and how that changes in time and place. I'm white and grew up in a small town in the South in the late 70s and 80s and the portrayal of small town white culture in that era is painfully accurate: the overt yet casual racism, the way we saw black people as so foreign and different, dangerous yet cool. We were deseg ...more
Anne
Sep 18, 2007 Anne rated it liked it
Caucasia is the story of Birdie Lee, the daughter of a white mother and a black father. Birdie has an older sister, Cole, who looks like how you would expect a child of her racial mix to look - black. Birdie, on the other hand, looks white. The contrast between the two causes constant confusion, and the never-ending assumption that Birdie must be adopted. The story is told from Birdie's perspective. She is quite young when the book begins and while she seems to understand racial politics to some ...more
Latanya
Jan 31, 2016 Latanya rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Those interested in matters of race and society
In a world where we struggle to find our place, issues of race, sex, gender, sexuality and religion strive to complicate matters. In this debut novel of Danzy Senna, she explores all five, without the goal of solving their complexities, but understanding them better.

Birdie Lee, a daughter of the revolution, deciphers a society where she was born to "pass" as a spy of sorts between black and white - never grasping hold of her fit. Where does she belong among the nuances of both camps? Since her
...more
Jamelah
Jun 13, 2009 Jamelah rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels
It turns out that I am a sucker for books about biracial girls working out their identities. I absolutely loved this book and couldn't shut up about it back when I read it. I haven't touched it since because I don't want to remember it as being anything other than perfect. It's the story of a biracial family in 1970s Boston: black father, white mother, and two daughters, Cole and Birdie. The parents split and the father takes the dark-skinned daughter, Cole, and the mother takes the light-skinne ...more
Jess
Apr 22, 2012 Jess rated it it was amazing
This is my favorite book I've read so far in my Introduction to College Literature class because it was the only one whose characters have really spoken to me in a way that wasn't preachy or highly metaphorical.

Birdie, the main character, is a young mixed race girl growing up in Boston in the late seventies with her white mother, black father, and sister Cole, who is darker than her. Birdie can pass as white, and she feels like she doesn't fit in anywhere or in any race. Her mother, a radical a
...more
Jessie
Aug 08, 2015 Jessie rated it it was amazing
Someone somewhere said that this author was underrated and they were right. This book was so good it hurt. Being biracial myself I idebtified with a lot, but also ached for the protagonist and her forced separation from her community. So, so good.
Jalisa Jones
Feb 18, 2013 Jalisa Jones rated it it was amazing
Loved this book...read it a whileee ago and it's still one of my favorites.
Jenni
Aug 12, 2016 Jenni rated it it was amazing
this... is what great literature is all about. I would claim that every book should be like this book, but every book we read can't leave us feeling like this one left me - it would be too emotionally expensive. it would dilute the jewelry box that I recovered this gem from, it would make its luminosity less viciously vibrant, it would cheapen the absolutely gorgeous, tantalizing effect that its great narrative used to possess me. every book isn't like this book because then this book wouldn't s ...more
Msladydeborah
Jun 21, 2012 Msladydeborah rated it it was amazing
Caucasia is the story of two bi-racial sisters and how the decision made by their parents alter their lives.

I found this to be an interesting book because Denzy Senna does a superb job of flavoring her story with an interesting combination of culture, politics and race relationships in a believable manner.

This is a good novel. I would recommend this story to anyone who enjoys reading about family relationships, radical politics and a coming of age story that is unique because of the family circu
...more
Vaughn
Aug 24, 2007 Vaughn rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Anyone
Growing up in a racially tense decade of the '70s is rough when you're bi-racial. The difficulty of the author growing up on the fence is captivating. With her writing style that is good to read with its flow and form of plotline, the book kept you reading until the end.
Not my favorite book I must honestly say, because of the strong resemblence between the tentativeness of the relationship between mother and daughter; it was very real and down to earth, which is okay, no problem with that, just
...more
Patricia
Jan 15, 2015 Patricia rated it really liked it
I read this book many years ago and enjoyed it immensely. It maybe based on real events in the author's life. It's about two sisters, white mother, black father during the civil rights years. The father takes off with the daughter that is more black and the mother keeps the daughter that looks more white. it's an excellent story about identity and family. I enjoyed it and thought about it for a long time afterwards. It just felt honest.
Blythe
Oct 05, 2016 Blythe rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
Not only is this an important book, it is also beautifully written. I had never heard of Danzy Senna and picked this up at the library on a whim. It was ahead of its time for 1997, very much current right now, and I highly recommend.
Hafsas Mom
Dec 05, 2015 Hafsas Mom rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2015
Wanted to give it 3.5 stars...It wasn't bad but I was expecting more.
Allison
Nov 29, 2015 Allison rated it it was amazing
AAMZAZING G T THRJRF SO GOOD
Rui Mateus
Nov 27, 2015 Rui Mateus rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
Nunca se deve acabar um livro tão especial.
Filipa
This book was a surprise but, at the same time, it was also a bit of a disappointment. Its writing is beautiful, the story it wants to tell its reader is even more beautiful but, for me there was something that was missing.
Those final pages were rather disappointing I must say. I was expecting more. I felt the author spent the whole book building up tension and in the end the bomb didn't explode.
I liked it and I would have loved it if the end had been different from what it was.
Tarina
Dec 05, 2014 Tarina rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: mixed people, eveyone,
Caucasia by Danzy Senna asks the question on every mixed persons mind;caucasia-novel

"What color do you think I am?"

Birdie Lees mom is white. Her father is Black. Her sister Cole is a smooth coffee color. Birdie could be Sicilian. Or Jewish. Maybe Pakistani.
Its 1975 in Boston Massachusetts and a revolution is brewing. Deck Lee has discovered the Black Power movement and he wants his daughters to know that in racist America you are either black or you are white. No daughter of his is going to pass
...more
Kate
Nov 06, 2016 Kate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Masterfully crafted vehicle for looking honestly at culture and race. This story is about a family with a white mother and black father and two daughters one dark and one light who are living through the ugliness that was Boston in the 70s. Black militancy, and concepts of Black Power and Black is Beautiful was the response to the demands of social justice brought about by the activism of the 60s in southern Jim Crow states. In 1974 Garrity instituted the desegregation of Boston schools through ...more
Raven
Mar 16, 2009 Raven rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book. Caucasia is the story of a young girl named Birdie who is growing up in 1970's Boston with her beloved older sister, Cole, and black father and white mom. Birdie struggles as she moves through her life because she is always being questioned on her race, as she appears to be white with light skin and straight hair. On the other hand her sister appears black with black kinky hair and facial features. Their black father, Deck, feels the need to teach Cole about her peopl ...more
Emma
Sep 30, 2009 Emma rated it it was ok
Danzy Senna's CAUCASIA houses a lot of serious issues that deal with racial identity in the United States. Though the book takes place during the late 70s/early 80s, the issues are still poignant today. The coming-of-age story centers around the pigment-ly white Birdie Lee, the daughter of a white mother and black father, and sister to a more visibly-black Cole. When the parents split up, Birdie and Cole are separated from each other, with no clues to each other whereabouts. The story follows th ...more
Julie
Nov 06, 2007 Julie rated it really liked it
Recommended to Julie by: Jenny, Powell's Daily Dose
When we first meet Birdie Lee, she is an 8-year-old whose whole world is her family: her beloved older sister Cole, her fiery and mercurial mother who has turned her back on her upper-class upbringing to do some unspecified underground activities, and her father, a professor at Boston U who writes about race. The fact that her mother is white and her father is black, and the setting is Boston in the 1970s, is critical to the story: although Birdie is sheltered, she is growing up in the middle of ...more
Rianne Smith
Jan 17, 2014 Rianne Smith rated it it was amazing
I've read this book a couple times before but each time I read it, I get caught up in the story. One minute I'm on page 331 and transported to Birdie's world and the next I'm on page 400 rejoicing in how awesome this book is. It's such a fantastic tale that it makes it an easy read. The different ways race is weaved in to The story is mind blowing. What I found interesting was the juxtaposition of Birdie at all black Nrkrumah school and Birdie at a mostly all white New Hampshire school.
Race see
...more
Roy
A fine debut novel by a promising young author. This country has a very complicated relationship with race and Caucasia is one of the more intriguing examinations of this relationship that I've read to date. Most novels about race showcase how blacks feel about whites and vice versa. But for a biracial person a whole new layer of complexity is added to the equation, especially when the decision is made to pass as exclusively white. Caucasia is a fantastic book, one that readers who love action-f ...more
Kathryn
Jul 31, 2008 Kathryn rated it it was amazing
I will write a full-length book review on my blog, but I loved this book. I started it Friday, forced myself not to read too much on Saturday, but ultimately woke up at 6am on Sunday to finish it.

It's a complex book, about race, about adolescence, and about the way that life wounds us. While some might roll their eyes at some of the plot twists, the character development is first rate and the obvious emotion behind the issues is admirable - given this is her first novel.

I related to so much of t
...more
Carol
Jan 22, 2009 Carol rated it really liked it
Caucasia, by Danzy Senna, examines what it means to be black. The story is about an interracial family and takes place in the early 70's to 80's. It is written in the view point of a young girl that appears to be white, while her sister appears to be black. The parents are young radicals that eventually have to split up because the mother needs to go underground to hide from her revolutionary past. The mother takes the white child, Birdie, and the father takes Cole the black child. The story fol ...more
Stephanie A. Higa
Jan 08, 2008 Stephanie A. Higa rated it it was ok
Three years ago this might have been right up my alley, but now it just didn't really affect me. I liked Senna's "sophomore slump" Symptomatic a lot more-- it tackles similar issues in a more exciting and unique plot. Here, there are too many long passages of nothing really happening but white people making racist jokes about black people...after a while I was like, OK I get it, people are horrible when they think they're alone. Obviously. I know I am.

Caucasia is really, in the end, too much ab
...more
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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...

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“He began to talk about the fact that race was not only a construct but a scientific error along the magnitude of the error that the world was flat. . . 'And when they discover their mistake, I mean, truly discover it, it'll be as big as when they learned the world was, in fact, round. It'll open up a whole new world. And nothing will ever be the same.” 11 likes
“Looking at those photographs, I remembered how my parents had never said “I love you” to each other. How they had said only “I miss you.” At the time, I hadn’t been able to figure out what this meant. But now it seemed clear: this was how they defined their love—by how deeply they missed each other when they were together. They felt the loss before it happened, and their love was defined by that loss. They hungered even as they ate, thirsted even as they drank. My mother once told me to live my life as if I were already dead. “Live each day as if you know it’s gonna be gone tomorrow,” she had said. That was how my parents loved each other, with a desperate, melancholy love, a fierce nostalgia for the present.” 6 likes
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