Khalil and Maria, biracial Stanford graduates whose Martha’s Vineyard wedding will be featured in the New York Times, hit a bump in the road when Maria develops a crush on another man.
Khalil Mirsky is the dreadlocked, Hacky Sack–playing son of a Jewish man and an African-American woman, “the only black guy at the frat party—the Hootie in his Blowfish.” Maria Pierce is so light that white people make racist jokes in front of her, thus suffering “that particular rage of the light-skinned individual,” as her black adoptive mother puts it. From the moment they get together, Khalil and Maria are the “King and Queen of the Racially Nebulous Prom,” their skin “the same shade of beige”—or as Khalil describes it to the woman filming them for a documentary called “New People,” “a Woody Allen movie, with melanin.” Maria is more cynical about their biracial fairy tale, their Brooklyn lifestyle, the future baby they'll name Indigo or Thelonious Mirsky-Pierce, "the messiah of Mulatto Nation.” Her second thoughts take the form of an obsessive crush on a poet who is not a New Person, a “brown-skinned black boy with a shaved head…the body, the skin, the face that cabdrivers pretend not to see.” Senna’s (You Are Free, 2011, etc.) fearless novel is equal parts beguiling and disturbing, and nowhere more so than in a hilarious, ultimately terrifying series of events that begins when a tired white lady mistakes Maria for her nanny, Consuela, and leaves her in charge of her infant. Senna combines the clued-in status details you’d find in a New York magazine article with the narrative invention of big-league fiction. Every detail and subplot, including Maria’s dissertation on the Jonestown massacre and her buried secret about a college prank gone awry, is resonant.
A great book about race and a great book all around.