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Caucasia Study Guide & Plot Summary

This Study Guide consists of approximately 63 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Caucasia.
This section contains 496 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Purchase our Caucasia Study Guide

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 Related Titles and a Free Quiz on Caucasia by Danzy Senna.

Plot Summary

Caucasia is the story of biracial sisters Birdie and Cole Lee. They are the daughters of Deck Lee, a black intellectual father, and Sandy Logan Lee, a white Boston Brahmin mother. Birdie, with creamy skin and straight hair, looks white. Cole has milk chocolate skin and curly hair, and she looks black. When their parents divorce, the girls are separated according to skin color. Cole accompanies her working-class intellectual father to Brazil, where he hopes to escape racism. Birdie goes into hiding with her activist mother. Through the normal complications of growing up, Birdie never forgets Cole and her father. Abandoning the deception that she is a white teen of Jewish descent, Birdie runs away to Boston to live with her black aunt. Eventually she is reunited with Cole and her father, although Birdie never understands why they deserted her.

As children, at the beginning of the novel, Cole and Birdie are so close that they speak their own made-up language, Elemeno. Before she is old enough for mirrors, Birdie assumes that she must look like her beautiful black sister, Cole. Only gradually does Birdie become aware that she and Cole are not identical. When their parents' discord leads to a separation, Birdie finds that her father is uncomfortable alone with her. His new girlfriend, Carmen, ignores Birdie, although she adores Cole.

When Deck, Carmen and Cole leave for Brazil, Sandy goes away with Birdie. Sandy insists the FBI is looking for a white woman traveling with a black child, and she transforms light-skinned Birdie into a young girl of Jewish heritage. They spend four years moving every six months, frequently trading in their cars and avoiding schools. The only constants are their names, Sheila and Jesse Goldman. Sandy insists that Deck has promised to return to the U.S. and find them someday.

Finally, Sandy Lee tires of running and settles in a tiny, all-white New Hampshire town. Birdie attends public school for the first time in her life, where she finds friends and a measure of acceptance. Eventually, though, Birdie finds that giving up her heritage is too great a price to pay, and she runs away. She visits her black Aunt Dot and white grandmother in Boston, and then she travels to California to finally be reunited with Deck and Cole.

Caucasia is a disturbingly truthful novel of the realities of race in America in the 1980s, and perhaps into the 21st century. The novel avoids easy answers. Trapped between two worlds and fully part of neither, Birdie has to invent new words to capture her essence. Passing as a white teen of Italian or Jewish descent, Birdie carries a precious box of "negrobilia," reminders of her hidden heritage. The issues of mixed-race children may be better understood in the Tiger Woods era than in 1980s Boston, but the underlying issue of race remains. Through Caucasia, we are forced to confront the reality that being American often means biracial children must choose to be either black or white.

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This section contains 496 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Purchase our Caucasia Study Guide
Caucasia from BookRags and Gale's For Students Series. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.
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