‘New People’ by Danzy Senna – She is Engaged Yet Out There Stalking


‘New People’ by Danzy Senna   (2017) – 229 pages

Maria is a young woman who ostensibly has it made.  She is in graduate school working on her dissertation on the Jonestown Temple massacre.  Her fiancée Khalil, after graduating college at Stanford, is hoping to cash in big on the first dot.com boom since this is the 1990s.  Both Maria and Khalil are biracial, “the same shade of beige”.   They will soon be married and against all odds they appear to be gliding into a happy upper middle class life.

But there is a slippery problem, and it all has to do with Maria.

Actually Maria is a “one dropper” and could pass for white, but she rebels by embracing her blackness.

“She grew up listening to Whitney Houston and she had never liked or known music out of the mainstream.  Being black and looking white was enough of a freak show.” 

Maria attends a poetry reading with Khalil and a friend, when a black poet she had seen before takes the stage and reads from his work.

“She wasn’t expecting to see him here tonight.  Now her face feels warm while she watches him step on to the stage and pick up the microphone.” 

“In the audience, listening to his voice, she realizes that she has been waiting to see him again.  She feels uneasy in this awareness.”

These short sharp lines are good examples of the lucid bold style of Danzy Senna.

Maria is immediately obsessed with “the poet”. She stalks him mercilessly and gets into some outrageously funny situations.  There are some most surprising hilarious turns in ‘New People’.  Totally engrossed in her search for the poet, she forgets her bridal dress fitting, much to the disgust of Khalil’s family.  She sneaks into the apartment next door to the poet and winds up holding and caring for a screaming baby when the woman living there mistakes her for the occasional babysitter Consuela.   In her crazed attraction for the poet, Maria drives even the trusting Khalil to suspicion.

I really liked the rapt yet playful tone of ‘New People’.  Even someone who is engaged can become terribly obsessed with someone else.  It is not fortunate, but it does happen.  Maria’s brazen obsession with the poet leads to some of the most ridiculous situations this side of ‘I Love Lucy’.  Just like Lucy, Maria is comical in her audacity.

‘New People’ loses some of its original merry energy towards the end, but up until then it is an unpredictable mad lively read.


Grade :   B  


2 responses to this post.

  1. A possible slapstick film?



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