You Are Free

Danzy Senna. Riverhead, $15 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-1-59448-507-7
Senna (Caucasia) moves into short fiction with a mixed bag of eight stories dealing with race, identity, and motherhood. Though the protagonists are largely defined by race and gender, the issues they grapple with are diverse: an inner conflict over whether to send a child to private or public school; a lonely woman's decision to be cruel to a stray dog; the emotional fallout from a neighbor's divorce. One of her longest stories, "The Care of the Self," is also one of the most memorable. It begins with the reunion of two close friends whose lives have taken radically different paths. Livy always played the comically tragic single sidekick to Ramona, whose life was the picture of connubial bliss. Now in seemingly opposite positions, with Ramona divorced and Livy a happily married mother, it becomes increasingly obvious that the image people project of their lives is not always accurate. This collection plays to Senna's strength at portraying mixed-race identity with subtlety and grace. Though the pathos and poignancy sometimes strains credibility, Senna excels at conveying emotion with a powerful restraint. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/28/2011
Release date: 05/01/2011
Genre: Fiction
Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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