I really enjoyed New People and was intrigued by who the description, “new people”, referred to. Maria and Khalil are a seemingly happy, engaged couple living in Brooklyn, both light skinned, mixed race. Khalil, a technology consultant, comes from a solid, intact family unit and is close with his parents and sister who is darker skinned than he is. Maria has no relatives; she was adopted by a black woman who was hoping to raise a “mini me” and has since passed away. She is spending her time writing her dissertation on Jamestown and busy learning about the mass suicides, how this could happen, and how those people kept going as long as they did. Maria’s previous boyfriend was white and although something about him made her despise him as a person, they had unrivaled physical chemistry. She now is planning her wedding to Khalil, but is distracted by her attraction to a black poet who she keeps running into.
Maria has done something in her past that is dishonest and cruel to Khalil. He is unaware and loves her very much. Now that she is obsessed with another man she makes questionable decisions which lead her into some dicey circumstances but the details are not revealed to Khalil so the reality of who she is and what she does in her life remain hidden. She has been and continues to be deceitful, yet for me, she is still likable and worthy of compassion.
I believe Maria’s studying of Jamestown, the people who were looking for their true selves and a place to belong in this world, and the music that enriched, was a representation of her personal quest for belonging. With a college friend she doesn’t even remember, she has a brush with Scientology, as she allowed this former classmate to perform some tests on her, and then she feels a pull, back to the ideal life of Khalil and his family. She looks white but feels black so her identity is unclear as she seems to be searching for people she can relate to, often feeling disconnected.
Maria’s bad judgement and and questionable decisions lead to some unusual situations that were humorous and uncomfortable. New People, referring to mixed race people, this story of identity, relationships and communication was enjoyable, short and easy to read and I highly recommend it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Danzy Senna is the author of five critically acclaimed books of fiction and nonfiction. Her first novel, Caucasia, won the Book of the Month Award for First Fiction and the American Library Association’s Alex Award. Caucasia was a finalist for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and was named a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year. Her other books include the novel, Symptomatic, the memoir, Where Did You Sleep Last Night? A Personal History, and the short story collection, You Are Free.
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