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Caucasia

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  6,943 ratings  ·  671 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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Monique I would not call it PG. But it is shelved in the teen section of my local library. Probably because the characters are young people.

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Average rating 4.04  · 
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 ·  6,943 ratings  ·  671 reviews


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Thomas
It is an injustice that this book is not more popular. I so loved the main character’s voice, as well as everything else about Caucasia. The story follows Birdie Lee, a young girl living in 1970s with her white mother, a fiery activist who does her best to renounce her Boston Blue Blood background, her black father, an intellectual who is fervently obsessed about theories of race and racism, and her sister, Cole, who shares her biracial identity as well as a secret language the two of them conco ...more
Reggie
Nov 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019-favorites
Think about the things you say when you think you are in a safe space. Think about the things that your safe space is composed of. The tangible, the intangible, the physical, the mental, the emotional. For Birdie, the star of Caucasia, there were moments when her skin was a safe space to some. Because she was a white girl.

But that's only halfway true since she was also a Black girl. You just wouldn't know by looking at her that her father was Black. Some characters in this novel might have adjus
...more
T.J.
May 13, 2008 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 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
Jun 28, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Deb
Dec 28, 2016 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 m ...more
Latanya (Crafty Scribbles)
Jan 31, 2016 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
barb howe
Feb 08, 2013 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
Jessie
Aug 08, 2015 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.
Jamelah
Jun 13, 2009 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
Tana
Sep 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This is one of the best reads I have had in a while. Senna touches a number of controversial social constructions with delicacy. This is a must-read.
Tarina
Dec 05, 2014 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
Anne
Sep 18, 2007 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
Jessica Sullivan
Birdie and her older sister Cole are daughters of a white mother and a black father, living in Boston in the 1970s. Though the two girls share an impenetrable bond, they begin to realize as they get older that they are divided by how they look: Cole, with her dark skin, fits in with the other girls at their all-black school, while Birdie is light-skinned enough to "pass" as white.

When the girls' parents get into some trouble, the family splits apart. Their father and his new girlfriend take Cole
...more
jenni
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 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
Shelley
Sep 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This definitely struck a chord with me. This book is why diverse fiction is important. Danzy Senna does such a good job of portraying being a mixed kid and her prose is very poignant and beautiful. I'm definitely going to revisit this throughout my life.
Blythe
Oct 05, 2016 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.
Jess
Apr 22, 2012 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
Dana M
Aug 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I'm on my way to Maine from Minneapolis, with a stop in New York (the day there are direct flights MSP -->BGR will be a happy day). This late night flight is made better by the fact that I have a row to myself and a large can of Surly.

A few weeks ago, I came across a used copy of Caucasia at Magers & Quinn for $7.99. A few Goodreads folks rated it highly, so I grabbed it. I didn't quite realize how famous this book was when I bought it. Danzy Senna, who is from Boston (Brookline HS grad!), now w
...more
Patricia
Jan 15, 2015 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.
Jalisa Jones
Feb 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book...read it a whileee ago and it's still one of my favorites.
Miste
Mar 20, 2013 rated it it was ok
I found it to be a little flat. Interesting idea to explore but the characters were just not that likable.
Safa Brown
Dec 05, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2015
Wanted to give it 3.5 stars...It wasn't bad but I was expecting more.
Kate
Nov 06, 2016 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
Charlie
Sep 14, 2011 rated it it was ok
In a way, this book makes the reader understand why Mariah Carey said she felt confused as a child about who she was¹. The pain of being neither here nor there for the main character, Birdie, was well written and successfully gets the reader to empathize with her. Sadly, that’s about the only good thing in this book.

Caucasia is split into three sections. The first is about Birdie’s African-American roots and her relationship with her father. The second, about looking caucasian like her mother. A
...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
Nicole
Jun 22, 2020 rated it liked it
incredibly smart and engaging. the story is unlike anything I've read before: two sisters from a mixed family are separated in their pre-teen years, one going with their Black father, the other with their white mother. set in the 70s against the backdrop of the Black Panther movement, the story's narrator is Birdie, who is able to 'pass as white,' who, with her mother who believes she is being pursued by 'the Feds,' is on the run for four years before settling in a rural New Hampshire town.

I wa
...more
Vaughn
Aug 24, 2007 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
Dr. Marcia Chatelain
Excellent story of how race and politics shape children and their families. Senna captures the tumult of the 1970s racial landscape, Northeasterners struggle with racial progress and just how racialized our growing up can be in this funny and enlightening novel. A must-read for anyone interested in race in America.
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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

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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.” 12 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.” 8 likes
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