Danzy Senna

Award-winning Novelist & Memoirist
Author of the Bestseller Caucasia


Senna's dynamic storytelling illuminates personal revelations that are anything but black and white.” —Entertainment Weekly

"Danzy Senna's probing and marvelous stories delve into the deepest layers of the human heart and psyche, all while showing us a multi-colored, multi- flavored, and most importantly multi-layered world to which we all—lovers, mothers, nomads, strangers—could easily belong." -Edwidge Danticat

Danzy Senna is the author of two bestselling novels, Caucasia and Symptomatic; a memoir, Where Did You Sleep Last Night: A Personal History (2011); and the short fiction collection, You Are Free (2011), which contains riveting, unexpected stories about identity under the influence of appearances, attachments, and longing. All books are published by Riverhead Press. 

NY Times Review of You Are Free

Her debut novel, Caucasia, the story of two biracial sisters growing up in racially charged Boston during the 1970s, became an instant national bestseller. It was the winner of the BOMC Stephen Crane Award for First Fiction and of an Alex Award from the American Library Association. It was a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year, one of Glamour's three best books of the year by a new writer, one of School Library Journal's Best Adult Books of the Year for Young Adults, and a finalist for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. It was also a book club selection of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer and the Contra Costa Times. Caucasia examined the politics of race with rare honesty and clarity. The LA Times called Caucasia as compelling as any you are likely to encounter, and a book that explores both the centrality and the lunacy of racial identity in America. It sparked a newfound focus on biracial cultures in America, a part of our population that does not fit into any clean category.

Senna's second novel Symptomatic (Riverhead Books), is a psychologically astute novel that continues to examine the complicated topic of race. In Symptomatic, her narrator is a biracial young woman often mistaken for white; she develops a friendship with an older, similarly mixed-race woman that begins as an antidote to loneliness and alienation, but gradually grows into something both complicated and frightening. Symptomatic is a psychological thriller rooted in the very extremes she avoids in Caucasia. Elle Magazine writes, “Symptomatic proves the raves [for Caucasia] were right on target...Senna throws everything into her literary stew–ambition, love, obsession, jealousy, and race.”

Senna lives in Los Angeles.

About YOU ARE FREE: STORIES (Stories, 2011)
Each of these eight remarkable stories by Danzy Senna tightrope-walks tantalizingly, sometimes frighteningly, between defined states: life with and without mates and children, the familiar if constraining reference points provided by race, class, and gender. Tensions arise between a biracial couple when their son is admitted to the private school where they'd applied on a lark. A new mother hosts an old friend, still single, and discovers how each of them pities and envies the other. A young woman responds to an adoptee in search of her birth mother, knowing it is not she.

When Danzy Senna's parents got married in 1968, they seemed poised to defy history. A white woman with a blue-blood Bostonian lineage and a black man raised by a struggling single mother, these two beautiful young American writers were boldly challenging long-held racial biases. When their marriage violently disintegrated eight years later, it was all the more heartrending given the hopeful symbolism of their union. Decades later, Senna looks back at her parents' divorce and their wildly opposing backgrounds: on her mother's side, a white America both illustrious and shameful, and on her father's side, a no less remarkable history. Digging deeper, she reconstructs a long-buried family mystery that illuminates her own childhood; her enigmatic father; the power and failure of her parents' union; and finally, the forces of history.

About CAUCASIA (Novel, 1999)
A young girl learns some difficult lessons in Danzy Senna's debut novel Caucasia. Growing up in a biracial family in 1970s Boston, Birdie has seen her family disintegrate due to the increasing racial tensions. Her father and older sister move to Brazil, where they hope to find true racial equality, while Birdie and her mother drift through the country, eventually adopting new identities (Sheila and Jesse Goldman) and settling in a small New Hampshire town. Birdie/Jesse tries to find her niche in this new world of eye shadow and gossip and boys, but she also wants to remain true to herself and find a common ground between her white and black heritage. She sets out to find her sister and reconnect with that part of her that has been lost for so long; the search takes her far from the settled, safe life she had in New Hampshire to a far more ambiguous, and unsettled, existence, one in which her own definitions of herself become muddled; and her search for her sister leads ultimately to a search for her own true identity.

Danzy Senna website