×

Warning

JUser: :_load: Unable to load user with ID: 883


New People by Danzy Senna

 

New People by Danzy Senna

New People ambitiously combines comedy of manners with literary thriller. It is a character-driven novel that explores issues of mixed race, love, and infatuation, while examining what it means to be black. It also looks candidly at a mother-daughter relationship in which a daughter is never quite black enough to suit her mother. Issues inherent in adoption and the impact of parental expectations permeate the book.

Set in the late 1990s, New People features a young, upwardly mobile couple, Maria and Khalil, who are planning their wedding. Khalil is a mixture of black and Jewish, and Maria is the light-skinned, adopted daughter of a single mother. Khalil is starting his own dotcom company; Maria is finishing her dissertation on the Jonestown Massacre. Having met in college, they are in love with each other and in what they represent—“the King and Queen of the Racially Nebulous Prom.”

All seems to be going well until Maria goes to a poetry reading and becomes infatuated with the poet. He is not of mixed race; he is a black man. That is all the reader learns about him.  In an interview with Scott Simon, host of NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday, Senna says:

I liked keeping him somewhat mysterious, so that he could become more of the object of her projections ... I think there's a quest for…authenticity, and for something 'real' that she's looking for and sort of not finding in her life. *

A central theme of this novel is why Maria is drawn to the tragedy of Jonestown and the suicide of 918 followers of Jim Jones.  Does she hope to understand what leads people to follow a man to their deaths? Is she grappling with her own emotional instability? At the very least, Maria lacks awareness of her own infatuation with the poet. Ultimately, just like the people of Jonestown, her fantasy leads down a dangerous path and threatens the good life she has planned for herself.

New People is a character-driven novel that examines issues of race, class, and alienation.  In her article, “Once Upon a Time in Post-Racial America,” Alexandra Kleeman concludes:

Having it all is exactly what Maria has been promised as a “New Person”: freedom from the old restrictions, the ability to have the entire Venn diagram rather than just the sliver of overlap at the center. But as the story grows increasingly claustrophobic, more psychological thriller than romance, it becomes clear that being “New” is no release from racial identity. **

*www.npr.org/2017/08/05/541632183/new-people-author-danzy-senna-loves-the-troublesome-characters

**New York Times Book Review, October 6, 2017

 
Comments List

Archive posts

Collapse all

Excerpts is the library newsletter and comes out every three months. It is mailed to every Glencoe resident. Copies of the newsletter are available online (below) and at the library. Please be sure to check the library calendar for program updates.

2019 Issues

March 2019

2018 Issues

December 2018

September 2018

March 2018

June 2018

2017 Issues

December 2017

March 2017

June 2017

September 2017

2016 Issues

December 2016

September 2016

March 2016

June 2016

2015 Issues

December 2015
September 2015
June 2015

March 2015

2014 Issues
December 2014
September 2014
June 2014
March 2014

2013 Issues
December 2013
September 2013
June 2013
March 2013

2012 Issues
December 2012
September 2012
June 2012
March 2012

2011 Issues
December 2011
September 2011
June 2011
March 2011

2010 Issues
December 2010
September 2010
June 2010
March 2010

2009 Issues
December 2009
September 2009
June 2009
March 2009

2008 Issues
December 2008