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Rated 3.28
1,022 ratings

New People

By: Danzy Senna

Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group

Imprint: Riverhead Books

Format: Hardcover | ISBN: 9781594487095

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On Sale: | Pages: 240

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From the bestselling author of Caucasia, a subversive and engrossing novel of race, class and manners in contemporary America. As the twentieth century draws to a close, Maria is at the start of a life she never thought possible. She and Khalil, her college sweetheart, are planning their wedding. They are the perfect couple, "King and Queen of the Racially Nebulous Prom." Their skin is the same shade of beige. They live together in a black bohemian enclave in Brooklyn, where Khalil is riding the wave of the first dot-com boom and Maria is plugging away at her dissertation, on the Jonestown massacre. They've even landed a starring role in a documentary about "new people" like them, who are blurring the old boundaries as a brave new era dawns. Everything Maria knows she should want lies before her--yet she can't stop daydreaming about another man, a poet she barely knows. As fantasy escalates to fixation, it dredges up secrets from the past and threatens to unravel not only Maria's perfect new life but her very persona. Heartbreaking and darkly comic, New People is a bold and unfettered page-turner that challenges our every assumption about how we define one another, and ourselves.
[I]n “New People,” her captivating and incisive fifth book, Danzy Senna has crafted a tragicomic novel that powerfully conjures the sense of optimism once associated with future racial transcendence, even as it grounds that idealism in a present that bears more than just a family resemblance to the racialized past. Inventive, sharp-witted and frequently hilarious, “New People” is set in mid-1990s Brooklyn, four years after the Los Angeles riots and two years before the fictional Senator Jay Bulworth, in the eponymous satirical film by Warren Beatty, will suggest a “voluntary, free-spirited open-ended program of procreative racial deconstruction” — crossbreeding until everybody has the same skin color.
—New York Times
“New People” is not a beautiful novel, not the kind of book I finished reading with a deliciously mournful sigh. It is relentlessly grim — about the constructions of race in America and the consequences of those constructions, and about what constitutes bourgeois success — and it is this grimness that bestows its harsh ring of truth.
—San Francisco Chronicle
In “New People,” Senna employs harsher but more comical strokes than in her earlier two novels. Both “Caucasia” and “Symptomatic” were first-person narratives, but “New People” is written in a jumpy third-person present tense. At first it feels like an uncomfortable fit for Senna as a writer, yet its irritants soon become integral to its package.... Two extended set pieces...are a bracing blend of grotesque and hilarious.
—Seattle Times
[Senna's] new novel, the sinister and charming “New People,” riffs on the themes she's made her own — with a twist. It's a novel that reads us. It anticipates, and sidesteps, lazy reading and sentimental expectations.... Senna's aim is precise and devastating. She conjures up '90s-era campus politics with pitiless accuracy... There is no easy consolation in “New People.” But in its insistence on being read on its own terms, its commitment to complexity, it does something better than describe freedom. It enacts it.
—New York Times
It says a great deal for “New People” — Danzy Senna's martini-dry, espresso-dark comedy of contemporary manners — that its compound of caustic observations and shrewd characterizations could only have emerged from a writer as finely tuned to her social milieu as Austen was to hers. So it's only fitting that its principal character is as infuriating, willful and challenging to a reader's sympathy as Emma or Elizabeth.... The book doesn't pour cold water on one's expectations for a better, more tolerant world. In fact, it implies that world has, to a great extent, already arrived. Brave new worlds sometimes emerge when you're not ready for them; whether in a stranger's apartment or in your own, too-human heart.
—Newsday
Maria's confusion is central to the breakdown that follows her obsession, and Ms. Senna deftly draws it out in the way of an espionage thriller, peeling back her characters' racial personas as though they were so many disguises.... The frankness with which “New People” treats race as a kind of public performance is both uncomfortable and strangely cathartic.
—Wall Street Journal
It is 1996 in gentrifying Brooklyn, and Maria, the less-than-heroic heroine of “New People," Danzy Senna's sharp new novel, perches on the cusp of triumphant adulthood.... It is to Senna's credit that “New People" resists easy analysis of Maria's plight.... It is also to her credit that she allows Maria to be delusional, deceitful, and even downright annoying (Claire Messud would approve). Still, there are loose threads that seem less justified, like a never explained ghostly presence and an inconclusive ending that signals the absence of a solution to Maria's plight, but is also just plain frustrating.
—Boston Globe
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