Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Caucasia” as Want to Read:
Caucasia
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Caucasia

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  6,151 ratings  ·  593 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)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Caucasia, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Caucasia

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Rating details
Sort: Default
|
Filter
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 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 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 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
Latanya (CraftyScribbles)
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
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
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
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.
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
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 Mackey
Aug 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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!)
...more
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
Rui Mateus
Nov 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
Nunca se deve acabar um livro tão especial.
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.
Imani406
May 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
4.5. Throughly enjoyed reading this book and will
Be checking out more by the author
Allison
Nov 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
AAMZAZING G T THRJRF SO GOOD
Danimal
Jun 30, 2017 rated it it was ok
I couldn't finish. Just too slow - not enough happening fast enough. A shame too because I was interested in the premise.
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
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 was. 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. An
...more
Emma
Sep 30, 2009 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 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 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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Black White and Jewish
  • Half and Half: Writers on Growing Up Biracial and Bicultural
  • The White Boy Shuffle
  • Mixed: My Life in Black and White
  • Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology
  • Bulletproof Diva
  • Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America
  • The Professor's Daughter
  • I Am Not Sidney Poitier
  • Upstate
  • Alchemy of Race and Rights
  • White Women, Race Matters: The Social Construction of Whiteness
  • My Jim
  • Black No More
  • Angry Black White Boy
  • Sassafrass, Cypress and Indigo
  • Passing
  • Black Bourgeoisie
298 followers
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
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »
“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.” 7 likes
More quotes…