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YOU ARE FREE by Danzy Senna Kirkus Star


by Danzy Senna

Pub Date: May 3rd, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-59448-507-7
Publisher: Riverhead

Deft, revealing stories about young interracial women struggling for self-identity in an increasingly mixed culture, frequently in the company of men who have little interest in questioning the things they do.

A writer for our time, Senna (Where Did You Sleep Last Night?: A Personal History, 2009, etc.) draws openly upon her life as the beautiful light-skinned daughter of an African American father and white Irish-American mother (both of whom are writers and activists). This book rises to even greater heights than Senna's 1998 novel Caucasia in probing the variously disappointing but still hopeful lives of striving young women, most boasting babies, troubled friends and detached husbands. Livy, a Brooklyn artist living with a gallery owner in Santa Fe, mourns the loss of her old unsettled self after a divorced New York friend visits her. Cassie, a playwright from Rhode Island temporarily living in Los Angeles with her artist husband, obsesses over the ultra-exclusive and ultra-expensive preschool to which their child has miraculously been accepted. Jackie, daughter of a black saxophonist and white singer—"the missing link between Sicily and Libya"—withdraws into a strange existence with an abandoned dog after being dumped by a black boyfriend who is against race-mixing. Lara, a New Yorker who writes for The Charitable American magazine, questions her outlook after meeting with a downtrodden young woman who claims she is her daughter. With the exception of a story told nearly verbatim three times, each with altered details and viewpoints, Senna writes with effortless control and surpassing understanding of her characters' tics and neurotic tendencies. Employing the issue of racial identity as a leitmotif, she creates stories whose interconnections hum. Now that we have an interracial president, the issues faced by people of mixed heritage are getting more attention. With humor and honest emotion, Senna educates us on what it means to be mistaken for white, or black, and the presumptions that go with those mistakes.         

A fresh, insightful look into being young, smart and biracial in postmillennial America.