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Caucasia Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 21 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Caucasia.
This section contains 428 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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Caucasia Summary & Study Guide Description

Caucasia Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on Caucasia by Danzy Senna.

Caucasia is Danzy Senna’s first novel, which was published in 1998. It was a national bestseller and won the Stephen Crane Award for Best New Fiction and the American Library Association’s Alex Award. The book describes the personal story of Birdie Lee, a young girl growing up in Boston in the mid-70s to early 80s. Birdie’s father is black and her mother is white; her father is an intellectual who has risen from tough circumstances and is obsessed with his theories about the origins and effects of racism; her mother is a blueblood-turned-revolutionary who is more concerned with direct action against racism than in theory; Birdie’s sister Cole has dark skin and Birdie has light skin. This play of opposites is the source of much of the novel’s conflict: Birdie’s parents can’t accept one another as authentic, and this causes the family to break apart. Birdie and Cole are thus forced to choose a racial identity on the basis of their looks alone. The novel’s main plot follows Birdie’s struggles—to assume a false identity her mother has devised for her, to live in isolation from her father and sister, not knowing where they are or whether she will see them again, and finally, to take matters into her own hands by finding her lost family and returning to herself.

In the opening chapters, Birdie’s and Cole’s lives are innocent and largely untouched by the racial strife that is still rampant in society. The girls spend much of their time playing together in their attic room, even inventing their own language, which continues to be their unique connection throughout the story. But domestic life takes a bad turn when their parents Sandy and Deck, who frequently argue, finally split up for good. Sandy is frustrated with Deck’s intellectualism, which never translates to action, while Deck sees Sandy’s secret revolutionary actions as risky and out of step with the times.

After being taught at home by Sandy during their first school-aged years, the girls are now sent to a public school that is predominantly black. In this setting, they experience their first taste of the racism that their mother has been shielding them from and their father has been warning them about. Although Cole is accepted easily by the other students, Birdie must try hard to fit in to make up for the lighter color of her skin, which keeps the other students from believing that she is the same race as they are.

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This section contains 428 words
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