Where Did You Sleep Last Night? Authentic Blackness in a Post-Soul Memoir


  • Monia Dal Checco




In this article I give a brief overview of how post-soul authors deal with the issue of racial authenticity. After that, I offer a close reading of Danzy Senna’s memoir Where Did You Sleep Last Night? (2009) through a post-soul perspective. Senna, the daughter of a white upper middle-class poet and novelist and an African American professor and literary critics of humble origins, identifies as black despite her Caucasian features and biracial heritage. In her memoir, the author manages with sarcasm and subtle irony the confusion about her racial belonging generated in other people by her physical aspect, and explains the supposed contradiction between her appearance and her ethnic affiliation. Through the story of her search for the paternal branches of her family tree, Senna explores the issue of authentic blackness in a post-Civil Rights society, and highlights the impossibility for both her and her father to carry on a stable and coherent performance of racial authenticity. Her approach to blackness emphasizes the artificiality of race and the absurdity of the classifying and judging gaze of mainstream society.


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