You Are Free: Stories


From the author of the bestselling Caucasia, dazzling and unexpected stories about identity under the influence of appearances, attachments, and longing.

Each of these eight remarkable stories by Danzy Senna tightrope-walks between defined states: life with and without mates, children, or the reference points provided by race, class and gender. Tensions arise between a liberal couple when their son is admitted into the elite private school where they’d applied on a lark. A new mother hosts an old friend, still single, and discovers how each of them pities – and envies – the other. In the title story, a woman’s strange correspondence with a girl claiming to be her daughter leads her into the doubts and what-ifs of the life she hasn’t lived. This is a bravura first collection from an author who helped to establish Riverhead’s reputation for pathbreaking fiction, and whose extraordinary talent and relevance continue to grow.

“Deft, revealing stories [from] a writer for our time… This book rises to even greater heights than Senna's 1998 novel Caucasia…A fresh, insightful look into being young, smart and biracial in postmillennial America.”

- Kirkus (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

“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

“Danzy Senna's probing and marvelous stories delve into the deepest layers of the human heart and psyche, all while showing us a multi-colored, multi-flavored, and most importantly multi-layered world to which we all--lovers, mothers, nomads, strangers--could easily belong.”

- Edwidge Danticat

"Danzy Senna's stories are beautiful examples of deceptive simplicity, which of course isn't simplicity at all. The tales are seductive, lucid dispatches from contemporary life, but the undercurrents are electric and strange, and go on working changes on you after the book is closed."

- Jonathan Lethem

"In You Are Free, Danzy Senna trains her gimlet eye on the intersection of race and family life, and the result is a richly nuanced, often funny, always provocative work of art."

- Jennifer Egan

“Senna’s people are completely alive in the mind as one reads, they inhabit us. The lines begin to disappear as one takes them in, and are replaced by the experience itself. These women and men are palpable and so well wrought that one loses the sense that one is reading a book.”

- Richard Bausch

"Dispatches from a glorious and terrifying dimension: motherhood. Senna has written about shifting identities before, but this time it’s the divide between being childless and bearing children that makes her imagination crackle…It’s one hell of a book.”

- Victor LaValle