New People by Danzy Senna review – a slick, pitch-perfect meditation on modern race issues


Danzy Senna graced the literary fiction scene last August with New People, her deftly-written, painfully satirical portrait of modern race-relations in America. It follows Maria and Khalil, who have been chosen to appear in a new documentary about ‘New People’ – ‘racially nebulous’ individuals like themselves who are blurring new boundaries as the twenty-first century dawns.

They live together in a black bohemian enclave in Brooklyn, Khalil riding the wave of the first dotcom boom, and Maria writing her dissertation on the Jonestown massacre. But even though Maria has everything she had ever dreamed of, she still can’t stop thinking about another man, a poet she barely knows. As fantasies edge into fixation, everything from her relationship to her very sense of self starts to fall apart around her.

New People is out now in paperback, and here is some of the glowing praise it has garnered already:

[A] cutting take on race and class…part dark comedy, part surreal morality tale. Disturbing and delicious.”
— People

You’ll gulp Senna’s novel in a single sitting – but then mull over it for days. — Entertainment Weekly

Everyone should read it. — Vogue

Slick and highly enjoyable…Thrillingly, blackness is not hallowed in Senna’s work, nor is it impervious to pathologies of ego. Senna particularly enjoys lampooning the search for racial authenticity… Identity, far from being a point of solidarity, is a beckoning void, and adroit comedy quickly liquefies into absurd horror. — New Yorker

The frankness with which New People treats race as a kind of public performance is both uncomfortable and strangely cathartic. … Provocative. — Wall Street Journal

New People is out 2nd August from Riverhead Books
(9780399573149, p/b, £12.99)

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