New People

Danzy Senna. Riverhead, $26 (240p) ISBN 978-1-59448-709-5
Senna (Caucasia) returns to long-form fiction in a muddled third novel featuring a protagonist in search of her identity. It’s 1996 in slowly gentrifying New York, and 27-year-old Maria and her college sweetheart Khalil, both mixed-race, are planning their wedding. They’re also the stars of a new documentary called New People about interracial couples. But there’s a catch—one that grows comically large as the story progresses: Maria’s obsessed with a soft-spoken, brown-skinned poet whom she barely knows, but suspects is her soul mate. Her stalking takes on an air of implausibility as she sneaks into his apartment building, impersonates the next door neighbor’s nanny, and crawls into his open window while he’s not home—and those aren’t even the worst of her creepy maneuvers. Interspersed with her complaining about the state of her otherwise stable current relationship with Khalil are flashbacks to her disastrous dating life in college before she met and “saved” him from being the “token... cool black guy at the frat party”; discussions about racism and white privilege; remembrances of her adopted mother before she died from breast cancer at 49; and a side plot involving Maria’s attempts to finish her dissertation on the mass suicide at Jonestown. Significant themes and issues are touched upon here but unfortunately get lost before fully landing. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 06/19/2017
Release date: 08/01/2017
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-0-399-57314-9
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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