For this book club, make sure you have read Senna’s Caucasia from pg 133-289 (if you have an edition that doesn’t neatly end on 289, read up to “Compared

For this book club, make sure you have read Senna’s Caucasia from pg 133-289 (if you have an edition that doesn’t neatly end on 289, read up to “Compared to What”).

After you’ve read the section, post a numbered list of thoughtful discussion questions (at least 4) and reflections (at least 2) from the excerpt. Discussion questions should focus mainly on the racial themes of the book and be in-depth, thought-provoking questions. (Bad examples of discussion questions: “Why did Birdie do X?” “Do you think they’re going to get caught?”) Since this isn’t an in-person book club, make sure your questions provide the necessary context– also including page numbers of what you’re referencing. Each question and reflection should be multiple sentences long.

In your responses, you will need to respond to two of your classmates, on their threads. Choose at least two items from their list (one must be a question, the other can be either a question or reflection) and provide a substantive response [Example: “In response to your Question 1, ….”] that provokes more discussion similar to the other discussions we have in class. Be sure to make connections to course material.

Classmate 1

1. On page 242, Samantha says to Birdie “I’m black. Like you.” Has Samantha been aware of Birdie’s race all along, or is Birdie mishearing her?

2. Birdie starts to add things to her box of “negrobilia” that Deck left her. What is the importance of these “items?” (Black barbie head, hair pick, James Brown tape). Do they help her remember Cole and Deck?

3. Birdie holds on to a fantasy of helping Deck’s research by spying on white people while “passing.” How does she fail or succeed in her study and what does she find out?

4. On page 137, Birdie says “In those years, I felt myself to be incomplete. A gray blur, a body in motion, forever galloping toward completion – half a girl and for me, there was comfort in that state of incompletion, a sense that as long as we kept moving, we could go back to what we had.” What do you think Birdie means when she describes herself as a gray blur? Does this relate to her raci

Classmate 2 still wait for him post it. I will list it as soon i have it E por dayanan
or four dusty years we ran be-
tween motel and commune.
We ran away from the trouble
mother had left behind on the
steps of a Columbus Avenue brownstone
. Away from the rubble of rev-
olutionary basements, fisted picks, Nkrumah dreams, and into the un-
derneath—into the world of women without names, without pasts,
without documents. Women who didn’t exist. Women who had been
discarded by the radicals they once loved. And so—bruised, disillu-
sioned, erased from the history books—they found one another.
We ran as if we knew what we were running from, knew what we
were running toward. And sometimes it seemed that there was indeed
a blueprint—that the zigzag chaos of our route was itself a plan, a ruse
to keep them from following our trail. But most of the time our trail
of auto exhaust and littered fast-food wrappers seemed completely
the Northeast out of the glove compartment, spread it across a picnic
haphazard. My mother would pull our rumpled, coffee-stained n
( 135 )
I felt myself to be incomplete
map as if it were our Ouija board.
table, and close her eyes as she let her finger glide slowly
all were fictive imaginings of our
neutralized the lies, made it all a
We stayed longest at a place called Aurora, a women’s com
galloping toward completion-
in upstate New York. And we staved there so long only because
half-baked, not quite ready for
mother found “Sapphic bliss,” as she put it, with an Australian women
comfort in that state of incom
named Bernadette who rode a Harley. We were at Aurora for nearly
moving, we could go back to
At first we lived off the
year, long enough for my mother to break Bernadette’s heart. Be
most places we left after a few months. My mother considered it un
that strange, tense mornin
safe to stay anywhere for too long, and so I got used to the constant
When that ran out, we live
motion. I remembered those years mostly in fragments, a montage of
in, and the proceeds from
unconnected images which I would begin to make sense of only later:
my mother scaring him away with a karate kick to his groin; speculums
valuable piece of Boston
the silverware sometime
a drunk Navy kid trying to break into our motel room one
greedily eyeing the wel
night, and
dle—and the money it
on the road. When tha
women shar
soaking in a sink at Aurora; a huddle of thunder-thighed
ing a group hug; and always, the blurring world beyond our wind.
shield, glimpsed only in passing.
It was easy to forget that we were, as my mother put it, a part of
something bigger. She said there were hundreds, maybe thousands
, of
others like us, fugitives of noble causes. She also said there was a com-
munity of radicals who considered her a heroine and would help her at
the drop of a hat. But for safety reasons, she explained, we had to re-
main isolated from our allies. I can remember only one meeting with
members of this network, and it came early on in our flight. A tall
white man called Mike met us at a diner one night in Poughkeepsie,
where he handed us a thick brown envelope containing materials for
our new identities. From then on we had been alone in the wilderness.
There’s something unreal about the time we spent on the run.
Soft. Unfulfilled. Dreamlike. Something about the unseen, the undoc-
other single mother,
toring “special childre
The same sort she had
there always seemed
willing to pay for a
my mother’s mixtu
perfect combinatid
sit still or simply
without ever bei
lowing her to su
lem of reference
the interviews,
her references
umented, the off-the-record that still feels unmentionable. But I’ll
women’s commune, the lie of our false identities seemed irrelevant,
mention those years enough to say this: On the road and in the
because there was no world to witness them. The people we encoun
tered seemed like us to be in a perpetual state of reinvention. We
her. She was w
children seen
When m
layed childre
| 136 ] Danzy Senna
across the
I felt myself to be incomplete-
all were fictive imaginings of our former selves, a fact that somehow
neutralized the lies, made it all a game of make-believe. In those years,
half-baked, not quite ready for consumption. And for
galloping toward completion half a girl, half-caste, half-mast, and
comfort in that state of incompletion, a sense that as long as we kept
a gray blur, a body in motion, forever
there was
cause my
n woman
back to what we had left behind,
r nearly
could go
eart. But
red it un
that strange, tense morning at the house on Fayerweather Street.
When that ran out, we lived off a savings bond my mother had cashed
in, and the proceeds from the family silverware. My mother had sold
the silverware sometime in the weeks before we fled Boston—”a
greedily eyeing the well-known initials engraved in the
valuable piece of Boston history,” the man at the shop had told her,
ontage of
nly later
ght, and
ile and the money it earned us was enough to last us a few months
en shar
ir wind-
on the road. When that dwindled, my mother had worked like any
other single mother, odd jobs—secretarial, factory—but mostly tu-
toring “special children”- dyslexic, retarded, or simply bad-natured.
The same sort she had tutored in Boston. It didn’t matter which town,
part of
ands, of
a com-
her at
d to re-
ng with
c. A tall
there always seemed to be a problem child with a desperate mother
willing to pay for a miracle worker. And it was true, something about
mother’s mixture of roughness and eccentricity seemed to be the
perfect combination for these children who had struggled to read or
sit still or simply exist. She was kind to them in her own belting way,
without ever being squeamish, and her method seemed to work, al-
lowing her to support and feed her own child. She avoided the prob-
lem of references by going to meet the mothers directly and, during
the interviews, charming the childern into submission. She told them
her references had been lost, but by that point they already trusted
ials for
ze run
But I’ll
in the
her. She was white, she was clearly educated, and most important, the
children seemed to be tamed by her very presence.
mother wasn’t busy teaching those disturbed and de-
layed children, she taught me. Home-schooling was nothing new for
on. We
( 137 )
stripped clean for the sake of starting over.
served as our home, parked in the darkened
other’s for warmth. On particularly cold
bodies wrapped together in an afghan,
start at all and we just called the space w?
The town we circled now was to
had chosen it a week before, when she
as any
New Hampshire. She had come back
she had found the perfect place a
worlds. It was made up mostly of
as good
the color
world she said she most admired. E
the world that could provide her
bunch, she maintained, and rare
could play the part when she
looked like an eccentric profe
Now she pointed to the
of us. It read: “LIVE FREE OR
“That,” she told me, “is
lot of free spirits living up
slogan—“Live Free or Di
Our van radio picked up only AM, making Patsy Cline sound
washed out, like an echo of music, not quite the real thing. I’d been re
minding my mother for more than a month that we needed
whes, but I figured we were out of money because she’d just ra
hand through her hair and say, “We need a lot of things, baby? And then
she’d go through the list of all the things we were due for: a job, a
house, a Pap smear (for her), new shoes, fresh blue jeans, and new fake
IDs. The lamination on her driver’s license was peeling at the corners,
and it had expired more than a year before. My doctored
wasn’t much better. A pen had leaked in my knapsack, leaving
smudge of blue across my small, anxious face.
Our rule all along had been to switch vehicles every six months
I stuck my head out
was thick, sweet with
outside, searching the
small shack that read
the center of a town
bite taken out of it,
place. It all looked
nessed before on
but we’d been driving this one for close to two years. It was a
stripped van with a cracked and drafty floor and a vague smell of tur-
pentine walting up from the corners. It once had been yellow. I could
tell because some of the paint was left on the interior, a nice buttery
chrome yellow. Now it was no color at all; the color of something
to be knocked do
a Dairy Queen,
eating Softee
nothing bette
| 142 | Danzy Senna
rainbow leg warmers, a long
otten light around the roots
From my bed, I often watches
to be frozen in whatever pose
be still, balanced on one
, delicate karate pose before
perceptible motion, one wł
opened them
I should have been as
dawn. But so often I was
to a pass
rips of my fingers tingli
for something, someon
she was alone.
Those days when
self to ride the horses
porch, and watch tel
Marshes had sold to L
was gone, even for
to me. I
sound of our clunke
Sometimes, w
It sounded like a child crying or a cat in heat. Unpleasant. Pleading i
head with a pillow. It was my mother doing her morning
mantras out on the lawn. The sound was grating, unsettling
had heard somewhere that you pray for only the dead or the doomed.
I didn’t want to pray for Cole. I wanted to use more practical methods
for tracking her down, like sending word through the underground to
tell her where we were, or simply going to find them ourselves in
Brazil. Sometimes when I asked my mother about trying a new tactic,
she would say, “It’s not so easy, sweetums. We’re still prisoners of those
fucking Cointelpro goons. Every move we make is a risk. We’ve got to
choose the right moment, or we’re fucked.” Other times she was more
optimistic and would pat my head rather gingerly, look away,
and say
a matter of
I walked the long
Woolworth’s, star
down, depressed,
the shops there!
bars covered in
was one particu
to get any busin
dow was a sad
“Don’t worry, babe. I’ve got it under control. It’s only
his gun pointe
After the mantras, my mother would do her Tai Chi on the broad
his cymbals p
field between the stable and the forest. She usually wore tights with
te only di
| 166 ] Danzy Senna

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