Cover image for Symptomatic : a novel
Symptomatic : a novel
Senna, Danzy.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Riverhead Books, [2004]

Physical Description:
213 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


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FICTION Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
FICTION Adult Fiction Central Library

On Order



A novel of acute psychological tension and unsettling questions of identity--the much anticipated follow-up to Senna's groundbreaking debut, Caucasia.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Senna's fine debut novel, Caucasia (1998), tells the story of a young girl struggling with her mixed-race heritage. The unnamed narrator in Senna's second novel also has a black father and a white mother, but this is a strained and peculiar tale, one that could be pitched as a tragic mulatto meets Psycho in Brooklyn. The narrator has left Berkeley for New York with a fellowship position at a prestigious magazine. Low on funds and all alone, she sublets a grungy Brooklyn apartment at the suggestion of a co-worker, Greta, a woman twice her age but of the same ambiguous racial identity. The apartment has a very bad vibe as the absent tenant's unpaid bills pile up and men leave obscene messages. Then Greta goes from being chummy and eccentric to pushy, possessive, and, finally, terrifying. Senna's strung-tight and relentlessly creepy novel features some ludicrous plot elements, but it is suspenseful, and the anguish her vividly realized mixed-race characters feel when confronted with hostility from both ends of the racial spectrum is, sadly, all too authentic. --Donna Seaman Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

A young biracial woman's postcollege year in New York proves psychologically challenging in Senna's muddled second novel. The unnamed narrator has landed a prestigious fellowship and a job as a reporter at a big New York magazine, not to mention a "strange lovely" new boyfriend who moves her into his apartment faster than she can say "nice place." But when Andrew-who thinks she's white-introduces her to his Andover pals, racist comments send her on a hunt for independence and a place of her own. An older co-worker, Greta Hicks, comes to the rescue with a sublet offer from her hairdresser's cousin; it's in a "transitional" Brooklyn neighborhood, but, hey, the rent's cheap. The narrator, habitually musing on her secret history, slowly gets used to Brooklyn style as Greta insinuates herself into her life. Her love life rebounds when she's assigned a story on talented Ivers Greene, whom Greta calls "the great ghetto artiste" and who becomes the narrator's new beau. But Greta's being creepy-she suggests they give each other bikini waxes, for one thing-and then she starts spying on the narrator, berating her, stalking her, etc. The first half of Senna's novel works in places, particularly when she outlines her narrator's growing sense of alienation from Andrew, her fatigue with racial politics and her difficulties in adapting to New York life. But the second half turns increasingly lurid and cartoonish, particularly when Greta's relationship to the wild previous occupant of the narrator's apartment is revealed. Senna addressed similar issues of race and identity with verve and panache in Caucasian, but this follow-up shows signs of the sophomore slump. Agent, Sarah Chalfant at the Wylie Agency. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Issues of identity, as in Senna's award-winning Caucasia. A young woman on a writing fellowship in New York sparks obsession in an older woman who shares her indeterminate skin color. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.