Books: Where Did You Sleep Last Night?

Reading the NYT review of Danzy Senna’s latest book, "“Where Did You Sleep Last Night?" brought me back to an earlier novel reviewed here, and some pensive moments.

Caucasia will probably be the book I read but the search for identity in the non-fiction book will definitely get some serious consideration on my whatz up next list.

Race in America in some ways is not different than it is elsewhere, but it is here that I live and so my inquiry into its lasting effect is predicated on a lifetime of memories, dissimilar but at the same time, recognisable in Senna's exploration into the inter-racial life.

I'm going to get both personal and political in looking at the book's value, whether that is literary or sociological, because race has played such a major role, albeit quietly, in my life.

I was fortunate to be raised by a Black woman. Her name was Lucille. She was my grand Nanny. White folk adopt their Nannies in strange ways, and Black folk often find that affection an abomination.

But I can't relate to either, I can only say what I feel, and even after five decades, I can still feel the strength of Lucille's hands giving me a bath, or hear her laughter when I tried to follow her instructions in making an apple pie with dirty hands.

It was love we had, and it was hate that separated us, and it is undoubtedly that separation that coloured my life--no pun intended--as I unconsciously or perhaps even consciously crossed the colour lines in my private and public life--sometimes at great peril in a racist society, but more often gifted with rich rewards.

Although racial barriers have outwardly been lifted, in many geographic and societal locations, the penetrating separations are as active today as they were when I was a little girl living among the racist bourgeoisie in New York City with a Black nanny and White parents.

Just check out folks reaction to our first inter-racial President.


  1. My nanny was Nettie and I grew up with a secret wish to be her child. She took care of me when I was sick, made sure the house ran smoothly, and talked to me as if I were something other than a bother. I think she actually saw me ... who I really was. I wonder how different our experiences were - you in the North and me in the deep South. If she felt hatred for whites, I'd really be surprised. She seemed to love life and took each day as it came. I don't remember much of my childhood, but I do remember being allowed to go to Nettie's home and spend the day with her and her family. I got to run around chasing chickens, play in the dirt, and ride in the back of a truck. It was bliss and freedom. Perhaps because she was so important a part of my life, I was rather slow about understanding racism. I couldn't figure out why I couldn't play with Ruby and Diamond who lived just down the road. I eventually got it. How could I not in Klan territory. My family was quite prejudiced, but in a politically correct way. I will always appreciate Nettie for the care she gave me, the safety she afforded, and the gift of colorblindness that lasted all too short a time.

  2. Thanks Gin for sharing your experiences in the South. I don't think they were so different up North.

    I lived down North Carolina for a short while and rural/suburban and urban North feel different but in the end the racism was the same.

    We should get back to postcards. :o