This is an essay I wrote for a Women's Studies course I took in University. When writing an essay or an assignment for school the hardest part for me was figuring out where to start. I believe that getting a few ideas by seeing examples and reading other peoples essay's always helped me figure out how I would write my own essay and how to get started. That is why I decided to share my essay with all of you. Hope this helps!
Caucasia: A Novel by Danzy Senna
Caucasia: A novel by Danzy Senna Introduction
Caucasia by Danzy Senna is a narrative of a young bi-racial girl’s journey of coming to race consciousness as she is forced to leave her home in the south end of Boston (a “racially” mixed area), and disappear into “Caucasia” (the white nation). One of the main themes in the novel is the issue of “race”. Senna explores the contradictions between a visible racial identity and a subjective identity, and as a consequence destabilizes the idea of “race”. The novel Caucasia illustrates the intersectional social constructions of whiteness through Birdie’s struggles with identity, her standpoint, and the structures of difference and race seen through her eyes.
Caucasia examines the relationship of identity with the self (body and mind) and how others perceive us in our bodies. Senna shows the reader how identities of gender, race and nationality are intersectionally and socially constructed. In the beginning of the novel Birdie has no name, her identity is shaped and formed by how others see her. The confusion Birdie feels with her identity is not only due to the discord she feels between her body image and her physical body which most adolescent girls deal with, but she also feels confusion regarding the mixed messages she receives from the “white” and “black” communities because of her white skin. The characters of Birdie and Cole are both bi-racial, however others (including their own parents) see Birdie as “white” and Cole as “black”. During Birdie’s childhood and her time at Nkrumah, Birdie was raised to have a strong “black” identity. This identity was problematized by her white skin and facial features. At times Birdie felt as if she was valued less then Cole for not fitting the “black” image: “Others before had made me see the differences between my sister and myself—the texture of our hair, the tints of our skin, the shapes of our features. But Carmen was the one to make me feel that those things somehow mattered. To make me feel that the differences were deeper than skin” (Senna, 1999, p.91). Birdie begins her identity quest by attempting to disappear, to become invisible. Birdie recalls a story told to her by Cole about Elemeno. That Elemeno is not only a language, but also a people and a place of safety and inclusion. Cole explained to Birdie that people in Elemeno constantly shift shape and colour in a quest for invisibility in order to survive as a species. The power of the Elemeno people lays in their ability to disappear into any surroundings. In response to Cole’s story, Birdie asks “What was the point of surviving if you had to disappear?” (Senna, p.7-8). Ironically the story of the Elemeno’s would foreshadow Birdie’s own disappearance into “Caucasia” for her own survival. The need for Birdie to “disappear” or become “invisible” in order to survive in “Caucasia” echoes the writings of bell hooks (1992). In speaking of the power and terror of the white gaze historically in the U.S., hooks explains that there is safety in the “pretense of invisibility” (hooks, p.340) and how black people have learned to “wear the mask” (hooks, p.341) in an effort to become and remain in that safe haven of invisibility from the terrorizing white gaze. Birdie appears...