WMST 2510B On Women: An Introduction to Women’s Studies
Caucasia Discussion Questions
1. Caucasia begins with Birdie's recollection: "A long time ago I disappeared. One day I was here, the next I was gone." Why does Birdie come to think of herself as having "disappeared" when living as Jesse Goldman? Is her ability to disappear a blessing or a curse? Is Birdie "passing" when she calls herself black, or when she calls herself white? When is she not passing?
2. Cole and Birdie speak Elemeno, a language named after their favorite letters in the alphabet, "with no verb tenses, no pronouns, just words floating outside time and space, without owner or direction" (p. 6). How does Elemeno reflect the sisters' positions in their family and in the world? Why does Elemeno continue to be so important to Birdie throughout the novel?
3. In what ways is the tension between Sandy and Cole typical of that between any mother and daughter, and in what ways is it specific to an interracial family? Do you agree with Cole's statement: "Mum doesn't know anything about raising a black child" (p. 44)? Does Sandy treat her two daughters differently based on their appearances?
4. Officially, Birdie has no name. Her birth certificate "still reads 'Baby Lee,' like the gravestone of some stillborn child" (p. 17). Her sister's name, meanwhile, was originally Colette after the French novelist, but was later shortened to Cole. Discuss the significance of the sisters' names.
5. Birdie refers to the time she spends on the run with Sandy, while "the lie of our false identities seemed irrelevant" (p. 116), as "dreamlike." Despite a sense of loneliness, Birdie says she felt "comfort in that state of incompletion" (p. 116). Do you feel that this experience weighed more positively or negatively in Birdie's development? By the end of the novel, has she found "completion"-or will she continue to live in this state of incompletion?
6. How did Sandy and Birdie's stay at Aurora...
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