Caucasia is Common Read for New MHC Students

Posted: June 20, 2008

This summer members of the Mount Holyoke College incoming class of 2012--and other members of the campus community--are reading Danzy Senna's debut novel Caucasiaas part of the annual common reading.

On Monday, September 8, faculty members will lead a panel discussion on the book for new students and other interested members of the community at Gamble Auditorium. The discussion will run from 4:15 to 5:30 pm.

In a letter to incoming students, College president Joanne V. Creighton wrote, Caucasia "is a fitting choice for your transition to Mount Holyoke. It is the story of two sisters, Birdie and Cole, who are born to a black father and white mother, and whose lives take separate paths when their parents' marriage falls apart. Cole, who has darker skin, disappears with her father, while Birdie lives with her mother and learns how to navigate a white world. It is a compelling narrative that will encourage you to explore your own views of race and class, identity and community."

The daughter of a black father and a white mother, both writers and activists in the Civil Rights movement, Danzy Senna grew up in Boston and attended Stanford University. She holds an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of California, Irvine, where she received several creative writing awards. She lives in New York City. The author has been invited to visit campus to discuss her work.

The book has been widely praised by publications including Newsweek and the New York Times Book Review.

Since 2000, Mount Holyoke's new students have taken part in a common reading as part of the College's orientation program, receiving copies of the selected book during the summer and participating in discussions after their arrival on campus. The reading helps new students make the transition into the College community by connecting them with other students and to the intellectual life of the campus. Faculty members are encouraged to incorporate the book into their courses.

Previous Common Readings have included Elizabeth Kolbert's Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change (2007), Tracy Kidder's Mountains Beyond Mountains (2006), Ruth L. Ozeki's My Year of Meats (2005), and Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books (2004).