42 pages 1 hour read

Danzy Senna

Caucasia

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1998

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Character Analysis

Birdie Lee

Birdie Lee is the novel’s protagonist, and the book spans her life from age eight to 14. Birdie is the mixed-race daughter of an African-American father, Deck Lee, and a white mother, Sandra Lodge Lee. She is tall, skinny, and boyish. Because Birdie has pale skin, European features, and long dark hair, she looks ethnically ambiguous and spends most of the novel trying to conform to the identity of those around her. Growing up in Boston’s Black Power movement, she learns to identify as black, like her father and sister. When the family splits up and she goes on the run with her mother, she learns to pass as white to keep their identities secret. Throughout the novel, people remark that Birdie looks Italian (107, 130, 195). On the plane to San Francisco, a man asks if she is Pakistani or Indian (378). When Birdie and her mother are concocting their fake identities, Sandy says: “You can be anything. Puerto Rican, Sicilian, Pakistani, Greek” (130). They settle on Jewish, and Birdie adopts the name Jesse Goldman, which she uses during the six years they are on the run.

Because most of Birdie’s effort goes toward trying to fit in, the reader does not learn much about her personality or interests; everything Birdie likes or does changes based on where she is and whom she is with.

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