Publisher: Penguin Putnam
Publication Date: January 1999
by Monique Blanding
Temple News Staff Writer
After reading Danzy Senna’s novel Caucasia, I must say the book was quite impressive. Caucasia is a fictional account of two sisters, Birdie and Cole. Birdie has inherited their mother’s caucasian complexion, while Cole possesses their father’s African American features.
The novel is set in Boston, Mass. in the early 1970’s when black power politics were alive and well. The racial politics of that time resulted in the family’s division along the color lines. Birdie goes undercover with their mother and is forced to assume a new identity as a Jewish girl. Meanwhile, Cole disappears with their father and goes to Brazil.
USA Today says of the author, “Senna brings an accomplished voice to this vivid coming-of-age tale, offering images sweet and sorrowful of a child caught on the fault line between races.”
Birdie’s skin complexion had a negative impact on her life; constantly judged because of the way she looked. Her sister Cole was constantly ridiculed, although Birdie thought she was beautiful and wanted to look like her. Ultimately, her family was destroyed because of the color issue. Everyone played the race card because they thought it would better their chances, but in the long run it left a lot of questions to be answered and a huge void to fill.
The way in which this book explores the politics of skin color in a biracial family is nothing short of brilliant. I think readers will walk away from this book with something different. All will be able to identify, at least on the most basic level, with one or more of the characters in this book because it’s more than just a story about race relations. We see a young girl coming into her own, mending relationships with her parents and coming to terms with her own identity.
I recommend Caucasia to anyone who can get his or her hands on it. If you don’t have the leisure time to read it, I hope you make the time to read a book I feel a lot of people can relate to, especially those who are from biracial families.