Bestselling author of Caucasia and New People
Photo credit: Mara Casey
About Danzy Senna
Danzy Senna is the author of five critically acclaimed books of fiction and nonfiction. Her first novel, Caucasia, won the Book of the Month Award for First Fiction and the American Library Association’s Alex Award. The book was a finalist for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and was named a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year. Senna’s debut has been translated into ten languages and become a modern classic.
Since publishing Caucasia, Senna has grown to become one of today’s most widely respected voices tackling multiracial and complex social identities. Her other books include the novel, Symptomatic, the memoir, Where Did You Sleep Last Night? A Personal History, and the short story collection, You Are Free. Her latest book, New People, is a subversive and engrossing novel of race, class, and manners in contemporary America.
An outstanding speaker, Senna discusses the line between fiction and memoir, and talks openly about the timely and complex themes that pervade her work. She often draws on personal stories to engage audiences of all backgrounds and invite important discussions.
Senna is a recipient of the Whiting Writers Award and was recently awarded the 2016 Dos Passos Prize for Literature. She has written for The New Yorker, The New York Times, and Vogue, among other publications.
She lives in Los Angeles.
The Point of Departure with Danzy Senna
In this craft workshop and talk, Senna examines why it is essential—even in the most autobiographical of stories—for fiction writers to do as John Gardener advised, “…to look for the story that didn’t happen within the story that did.” Together with the audience, Senna explores different techniques for finding fictive distance when we are too close to a story, and locating the perfect moment of departure in a plot, when we veer away from the facts in search of deeper truths.
Writing Literary Memoir
After writing two critically acclaimed novels, Danzy Senna published her first work of nonfiction, Where Did You Sleep Last Night?, an intensely personal story of family and social tension. In this lecture, Senna speaks about how we can use traditional elements of fiction to inform how we write memoir. Audiences will gain a new understanding of how to effectively use literary technique to express their own stories and narratives.
Multiracial Identity: Coming of Age Between Black and White
In her critically acclaimed works, Senna gives voice to multiracial identity by challenging our defined notions of black and white. In this thought-provoking lecture, Senna discusses what it means to come of age between races, drawing on her own experience, as well as the themes from her seminal work Caucasia and the forthcoming novel New People.
The Uses and Limitations of Identity Politics
The rise of identity politics has become one of our country’s most fiercely debated topics. For nearly two decades, Senna has been exploring the complexity of intersecting identities, and questioning how we define ourselves versus how others define us. In this timely and important talk, Danzy Senna addresses the benefits and limitations of identity politics, exploring their use and personal as well as political implications.
Praise for Danzy Senna
Praise for New People
Senna’s thriller-like novel is a stirring exploration of race and identity, and, a propulsive look at a fantasy playing out before one’s eyes.— Esquire
Danzy Senna delivers her finest and funniest work yet…[she] writes with a dexterous command of character and language. And she unleashes a razor-sharp sense of humor that take aim at and slices through notions of political correctness, identity politics and hypocrisy…achingly funny…and deeply affecting.— Essence
Slick and highly enjoyable…Thrillingly, blackness is not hallowed in Senna’s work, nor is it impervious to pathologies of ego. Senna particularly enjoys lampooning the search for racial authenticity…Identity, far from being a point of solidarity, is a beckoning void, and adroit comedy quickly liquefies into absurd horror.— The New Yorker
An of-the-moment novel [that] tackles identity and infatuation…slender but powerful, as seductive and urgent as a phone call from an old flame. At first blush, the book seems like a straightforward love story…but it’s more complicated than that… This is not a book about race disguised as a romance, nor is it a love story saddled with a moral. Senna’s achievement is that she interlaces both threads in one ingenious tale.— O: The Oprah Magazine
[Senna] explore[s] what happens when races and cultures mingle in the home — and under the skin…Her new novel, the sinister and charming New People, riffs on the themes she’s made her own — with a twist. It’s a novel that reads us. It anticipates, and sidesteps, lazy reading and sentimental expectations… The material is hot but the style stays cool… Senna’s aim is precise and devastating…There is no easy consolation in New People. But in its insistence on being read on its own terms, its commitment to complexity, it does something better than describe freedom. It enacts it.— The New York Times
Everyone should read it.— Vogue
You’ll gulp Senna’s novel in a single sitting—but then mull over it for days.— Entertainment Weekly
[A] cutting take on race and class…part dark comedy, part surreal morality tale. Disturbing and delicious.— People
Praise for You Are Free: Stories
Deft, revealing stories [from] a writer for our time… This book rises to even greater heights than Senna’s 1998 novel Caucasia… A fresh, insightful look into being young, smart and biracial in postmillennial America.— Kirkus (starred)
Senna skillfully exposes the cracks in her characters’ domestic lives… Though [these] stories address race, class and gender, they never devolve into simple case studies. Rather, her collection offers nuanced portraits of characters confronting anxieties and prejudices that leave them not as free as they would like to be.— The New York Times Book Review
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 mutli-layered world to which we all—lovers, mothers, nomads, strangers—could easily belong.— Edwidge Danticat
Praise for Where Did You Sleep Last Night?
A keen examination of a utopian-minded marriage scarred by America's racially divided past.— Megan O'Grady, Vogue
Part personal history, part detective yarn, this is a melancholy story of unlocking the present with the hidden keys of the past, and of a daughter trying to find resolution with the father she both reveres and fears.— The Boston Globe
Praise for Symptomatic
Disturbing, sensual… a must-read.— The Seattle Times
Extraordinarily original.— The Washington Post
Senna’s debut novel… was hailed as nothing less than a contemporary classic, with the author invoking comparisons to everyone from Ralph Ellison to Vladimir Nabokov. Her follow-up, Symptomatic, proves the raves were right on target.— Elle
Praise for Caucasia
Superbly illustrates the emotional toll that politics and race take on one especially gutsy young girl's development as she makes her way through the parallel limbos between black and white and between girl and young woman....Haunting and intelligent.— The New York Times Book Review
Extraordinary…A cross between Mona Simpson’s Anywhere But Here and James McBride’s The Color of Water, this story of a young girl’s struggle--to find her family, her roots, her identity--transcends race even while examining it. A compelling look at being black and being white, Caucasia deserves to be read all over.— Glamour
The visual conundrums woven through Danzy Senna’s remarkable first novel [will] cling to your memory…Senna tells this coming-of-age tale with impressive beauty and power.— Newsweek
Books by Danzy Senna
Media About Danzy Senna
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- Danzy Senna travels from Los Angeles, CA
“I stayed up way later than planned to finish New People, Danzy Senna’s riveting, take-no-prisoners, dystopic dream of a novel. More scorcher than satire, New People loads identity, race, despair, and desire into a blender then hits high. Get ready to stay up late, to be propelled, pricked, and haunted.” —Maggie Nelson, author of The Argonauts