Press for You Are Free: Stories

Deft, revealing stories about young interracial women struggling for self-identity in an increasingly mixed culture, frequently in the company of men who have little interest in questioning the things they do.

A writer for our time, Senna (Where Did You Sleep Last Night?: A Personal History, 2009, etc.) draws openly upon her life as the beautiful light-skinned daughter of an African American father and white Irish-American mother (both of whom are writers and activists). This book rises to even greater heights than Senna's 1998 novel Caucasia in probing the variously disappointing but still hopeful lives of striving young women, most boasting babies, troubled friends and detached husbands. Livy, a Brooklyn artist living with a gallery owner in Santa Fe, mourns the loss of her old unsettled self after a divorced New York friend visits her. Cassie, a playwright from Rhode Island temporarily living in Los Angeles with her artist husband, obsesses over the ultra-exclusive and ultra-expensive preschool to which their child has miraculously been accepted. Jackie, daughter of a black saxophonist and white singer - "the missing link between Sicily and Libya" - withdraws into a strange existence with an abandoned dog after being dumped by a black boyfriend who is against race-mixing. Lara, a New Yorker who writes for The Charitable American magazine, questions her outlook after meeting with a downtrodden young woman who claims she is her daughter. With the exception of a story told nearly verbatim three times, each with altered details and viewpoints, Senna writes with effortless control and surpassing understanding of her characters' tics and neurotic tendencies. Employing the issue of racial identity as a leitmotif, she creates stories whose interconnections hum. Now that we have an interracial president, the issues faced by people of mixed heritage are getting more attention. With humor and honest emotion, Senna educates us on what it means to be mistaken for white, or black, and the presumptions that go with those mistakes.

A fresh, insightful look into being young, smart and biracial in postmillennial America.

- Kirkus Book Reviews (starred)

"Senna skillfully exposes the cracks in her characters’ domestic lives…Though [these] stories address race, class and gender, they never devolve into simple case studies. Rather, her collection offers nuanced portraits of characters confronting anxieties and prejudices that leave them not as free as they would like to be."

- The New York Times Sunday Book Review, May 8, 2011

"Danzy Senna’s perceptive stories in You Are Free show how nothing is black-and-white."

- Vanity Fair, Hot Type

"[In You Are Free].. the narrators are often shocking – their violence, their lust for status, their inability to empathize with others. Senna reveals things about people that we rarely see in day-to-day life…Severing readers from their entrenched moralities usually takes a lot longer (at least a novel), but Senna does it in a few carefully chosen details."

- Susan Salter Reynolds, The Los Angeles Times

"Acclaimed memoirist and fiction writer Senna presents eight compelling stories about female protagonists exploring the nature of self-identity, race, and relationships…Senna’s fluid, assured tales address true-to-life questions and navigate universal conundrums."

- Booklist

"This collection plays to Senna's strength at portraying mixed-race identity with subtlety and grace...Senna excels at conveying emotion with a powerful restraint."

- Publishers Weekly
"An upwardly mobile wife frets after her child is accepted into an expensive preschool, though she applied insincerely and her husband scorns the place. A single woman develops a dysfunctional relationship with a dog she refers to as 'the bitch.' A woman who has never given birth receives a call from someone claiming to be the child she gave up for adoption. These and five other crisply written stories take place in a middle-class world we thought we knew, while revealing the strangeness, distress, and sorrow under its blank surfaces. As with Senna’s novels, racial issues crop up, but here they dodge and feint through women’s lives that are never as well-tended as they seem."

- James Hannaham,The Village Voice
"...[Women] in their 30s confronting identity-defining choices are the focus of memoirist Danzy Sennas unsettling short-story collection, You Are Free (Riverhead), which fearlessly but subtly dramatizes a very American discomfort with such issues as race, class, and gender."

- Megan O'Grady, Vogue
"There's not much I can think of that would make me want to extend my hour-long commute...but that's what Danzy Senna's new book You are Free did...Maybe it's the humanity that Senna infuses into each of her characters. Whatever 'it' is would be a great topic for any book club discussion."

- Ladies' Home Journal
"Daring...this risk taking author tackles her greatest creative challenge so far...In eight lyrical stories, Senna gives us messy mothers and daughters struggling with issues of race, identity, and finding and defining one's truth."

- Essence