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

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When Danzy Senna's parents got married in 1968, they seemed poised to defy history. They were two brilliant young American writers from wildly divergent backgrounds--a white woman with a blue-blood Bostonian lineage and a black man, the son of a struggling single mother and an unknown father. They married in a year that seemed to separate the past from the present; together, these two would snub the histories that divided them and embrace a radical future. When their marriage disintegrated eight years later, it was, as one friend put it, "the ugliest divorce in Boston's history"--a violent, traumatic war that felt all the more heartrending given the hopeful symbolism of their union.

Decades later, Senna looks back not only at her parents' divorce but beyond it, to the opposing American histories that her parents had tried so hard to overcome. On her mother's side of the family she finds--in carefully preserved documents--the chronicle of a white America both illustrious and shameful. On her father's she discovers, through fragments and shreds of evidence, a no less remarkable history. As she digs deeper into this unwritten half of the story, she reconstructs a longburied family mystery that illuminates her own childhood. In the process, she begins to understand her difficult father, the power and failure of her parents' union, and, finally, the forces of history.

Where Did You Sleep Last Night? is at once a potent statement of personal identity, a challenging look at the murky waters of American ancestry, and an exploration of narratives--the narratives we create and those we forget. Senna has given us an unforgettable testimony to the paradoxes--the pain and the pride--embedded in history, family, and race.


About Danzy Senna

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Danzy Senna 's first novel, Caucasia, won the Stephen Crane Award for Best New Fiction and the ALA's Alex Award, was a finalist for the IMPAC Award, and was named a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year. Senna is also the author of Symptomatic and the memoir Where Did You Sleep Last Night? She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their two sons.
Published March 30, 2010 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 208 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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At the heart of this personal history lies the author’s search for her roots—not her mother’s well-recorded descent from the founding families of New England, but her father’s multiracial Southern background and the evasions, half-truths and unspoken stories that defined it.

Apr 01 2009 | Read Full Review of Where Did You Sleep Last Nigh...

The New York Times

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Danzy Senna’s “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” ostensibly sets out to answer another question — “Don’t you know who I am?” — posed by the author’s father, Carl Senna, early in the book, when he visits after a lengthy estrangement to find that his 5-year-old daughter doesn’t recognize him.

Aug 06 2009 | Read Full Review of Where Did You Sleep Last Nigh...

The Washington Post

"The ugliest divorce in Boston's history": That's how a family friend describes the breakup of Danzy Senna's parents -- her mother, a descendant of New England blue-bloods, and her father, the son of a black woman and, depending on whom Senna asks, a Mexican boxer or an Irish priest.

May 31 2009 | Read Full Review of Where Did You Sleep Last Nigh...

Story Circle Book Reviews

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APOOO Bookclub

By Dera Williams • Jun 3rd, 2009 • Category: Book Review 2009 • Email This Post • Print This Post As one who does genealogy research, I happen to believe, as most genealogists do, that family history is a vital part of one’s life.

Jun 03 2009 | Read Full Review of Where Did You Sleep Last Nigh...

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