Friday, April 16, 2010

Where Did You Sleep Last Night?: A Personal History, by Danzy Senna

In the tradition of James McBride's The Color of Water, Where Did You Sleep Last Night? is "a stunningly rendered personal heritage that mirrors the complexities of race, class, and ethnicity in the United States" (Booklist).

The daughter of a black father and a white mother, both writers and activists in the Civil Rights Movement, Danzy Senna grew up in Boston and attended Stanford University. She holds an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of California, Irvine, where she received several creative writing awards. She lives in New York City. Her two first books, Caucasia (1999) and Symptomatic (2003), were both great success encensed by critics. Danzy Senna's last book, Where Did You Sleep Last Night?: A Personal History (2009) follow the same way of success.

"Senna is masterly at relaying--and, more important, withholding--information . . . every lead, every twist, begs for a page-flip."-By David Matthews, The New York Times Book Review.

“The author's memoir seeks to untangle the complicated past of her mixed-race family and come to terms with the father she barely knows.” -By Erin Aubry-Kaplan, the Los Angeles Times.

“Senna’s family tree looks like a giant oak cleaved by lightning.”- By Meghan Allen, Elle.

Where Did You Sleep Last Night?: A Personal History, by Danzy Senna.

"In 1975 my mother left my father for the last time. We fled to Guilford, Connecticut. It was a rich town, but we rented an apartment in a tenement that the town's residents referred to only as "the welfare house." The backyard was a heap of dead cars. We lived on the second floor. Below us lived the town's other nonwhite residents, a Korean war bride and her two half -Italian sons. Beside them lived an obese white mother and son. I don't know if we were officially hiding out from my father there—or if he know where we were all that time. In my memory it seems that a long time passed before we saw him again, long enough for me to forget him. And I remember the day he reappeared. I was five, and I heard the doorbell ring. I raced in bare feet to see who was there. I saw, at the bottom of the dimly lit stairwell, a man. His face was hidden in the shadows, but I could make out black curls, light brown skin."Hi, baby," he called up to me.

I stared back.

"Don't you know who I am?"

I shook my head.

"You don't you know who I am?"

I knew and I didn't know. I had memories of the man at the bottom of the stairwell, both good and bad—but I could no say who he was. I only knew that I had known him, back there in the city, and the sight of him now made me uneasy.

My mother emerged behind me in a housedress. I heard a sound in her throat—a gasp or a sigh—when she saw whom I was talking to.

"See that?" the man shouted up at her. "See what you've done? She doesn't even know who I am. My own child doesn't recognize me."

I began to cry, perhaps recalling now all that we had fled. My mother shushed me.

"It's your father," she said, gathering me into her arms. I turned to watch him come toward us up the stairs.

Thirty years later. And he's still asking me that question.

"Don't you know who I am?"

No comments:

Post a Comment