The debut novel Caucasia by Danzy Senna caught my eye at a clearance sale event. I was unfamiliar with her name, but read some of what was on the back cover and decided to hold on to it. Seeing a work that isn’t a text-book covering matters of race by having biracial main characters or those of mixed ethnicities has been rare for me. Not that I have thoroughly researched, but I guess the fact I believe I would have to research in order to find more works and writers touching on the subject reiterates my point.
I’ve noticed that lately diversity/inclusive reading and writing is encouraged more and more. A concept I consider a good thing (as long as it avoids tokenism, which I’ll save for another time). But from my view, when discussing minority groups* the emphasis tends to be specifically in reference to African, African American, Asian, Asian American, Latino, Native American, and those along the Queer spectrum. Again while I think this is a good thing, and probably a reflection of the people doing the advocating, people of color do not always fit so neatly into any one category. What it comes down to is self-identity. Many people who consider themselves Black/African American, are also still blended with other ethnicities. Regardless of how brown they are or aren’t. Others may identify as Black without the African American because it isn’t applicable (i.e. those of Latin American origins). And others still who are blended identify as mixed/other/multiracial etc. Because that’s how they chose to identify or how society has made them feel. I can attest to the latter. Caucasia is wonderful at illustrating this self-identification struggle and gives the reader an enlightening, even if familiar for some, perspective.
One thing off-putting when I’m considering a new book to buy, is overwhelming amounts of praise. I understand the marketing sense of it. But when it’s all over I raise a brow and think really, this is all necessary? Sometimes it takes away from the aesthetic of the book, other times I think it cheapens the work. Because it calls into question how the author attained them. Especially the more “prestigious” they are. My copy of Caucasia is no exception. The book has a couple quotes on the front, several on the back and more than a couple of pages within. However, the topic and the potential of it being a good story was more important to me than this praise pet peeve. I read the opening, a single page of three succinct paragraphs and became hooked. Senna knew what she was doing, and much like Invisible Man it’s made me want to keep reading. Last night, I think I read my biggest stretch of a hundred and some odd pages. Which I don’t do often. The layout of the book makes it easy to find stopping points, which I appreciate, because what’s another twenty-four pages here or there, and there?
*If not apparent by things I’ve shared, I read and continue to read works from any of these groups and them some because I have no qualms doing so. This was just to comment it’s near impossible to be completely inclusive when advocating for diversity because some groups will get more attention than others for various reasons.