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Where Did You Sleep Last Night?: A Personal History
by Danzy Senna
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The author's parents, both writers, but her mother a white woman from Boston and her father an African American man originally from the south, married in 1968. The marriage dissolved as the author's father became abusive and alcoholic. Senna's mother's family, Boston bluebloods, have a well-publicized history, but her father's history, and the roots of his frustration, are a mystery to her until she explores them as an adult. The book is touching and well-written, but it seemed to me the author didn't learn enough to really flexh out the social context well. I still felt rather mystified at the end. ( )
I wanted the ending to turn out different than it did. One frustrating book.
I picked up this book because I liked its evocative title and because the review I read promised drama: the author’s parents“had the ugliest divorce in Boston’s history” at the end of their interracial marriage. Oddly, however, the book was muted and nondramatic. The author tries to figure out her heritage by tracing her genealogy. In Senna’s case, her mother’s family is well-documented; they were well-known Boston blue bloods (her description of their starchiness made me think I’d never fit in in Boston); her father’s family was African American and from the deep South. Senna’s grandmother Anna was particularly enigmatic; she left her children in an orphanage while she pursued higher education and a clandestine relationship with a Roman Catholic priest. Senna’s father grew up to be a gifted, yet embittered, abusive, alcoholic man. By the end of the book, however, we find out that he somehow did manage to turn his life around, has remarried and lives in Canada. Turns out there was lots of potential drama here, but in this telling, it is all rather flat, distant and uninvolving. Perhaps Senna should have written a novel about her family rather than a memoir. That way she could have filled in the blanks with her imagination and created a more satisfying book.
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Wikipedia in English (1)
In her courageous portrait of the tumultuous union between her Boston Brahmin mother and her enigmatic black father, Danzy Senna offers a powerfully personal take on the progress of American race relations since the civil rights movement.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)813.54Literature English (North America) American fiction 20th Century 1945-1999
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