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Extended Audio Sample Where Did You Sleep Last Night?: A Personal History Audiobook, by Danzy Senna Click for printable size audiobook cover
4.13 out of 54.13 out of 54.13 out of 54.13 out of 54.13 out of 5 4.13 (24 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Danzy Senna Narrator: Carrington MacDuffie Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: February 2015 ISBN: 9781504626552
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When Danzy Senna’s parents got married in 1968, they seemed poised to defy history. A white woman with a blue-blood Bostonian lineage and a black man raised by a struggling single mother, these two beautiful young American writers were boldly challenging long-held racial biases. When their marriage violently disintegrated eight years later, it was all the more heartrending given the hopeful symbolism of their union.

Decades later, Senna looks back at her parents’ divorce and their wildly opposing backgrounds and discovers two remarkable American histories. Digging deeper, she reconstructs a long-buried family mystery that illuminates her own childhood, her enigmatic father, the power and failure of her parents’ union, and finally, the forces of history.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Danzy Senna provides a moving example of how not to place blame but to use the past to illuminate the complexities of the present…Senna’s third work is less a moody j’accuse than a gripping detective story, one in which the author travels from New England to New York to the Deep South, following the trail of her father’s upbringing in a quixotic effort to understand her own…The story of her unhappy family, she realizes, is also the story of a nation, one equally fractured but full of possibility.”

    NPR

  • “A haunting, introspective meditation on race and family ties that tackles the tricky questions involved in constructing identity.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “MacDuffie’s tones subtly change as she speaks in Senna’s childlike voice, which matures as events progress in this memoir. MacDuffie’s voice is assertive and compelling as she convincingly reflects Senna’s fervent drive to uncover her extraordinarily complicated family history as the offspring of a Caucasian mother and African American father.”

    Booklist

  • Where Did You Sleep Last Night? A Personal History is a completely different exploration of personal identity…wherein the very nature and definition of family are called into question. Ultimately, her search leads to a reframing of identity for four generations, including her infant son, and the exposure of a complex middle ground of meaning, far from black and white.”

    BookPage

  • “Senna squarely confronts the issues of race and ethnic identity in American history…Quietly reflective and gorgeously written.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • “[An] interesting memoir…While race and identity provide a backdrop to her story, much of what Senna experienced has been experienced by all children of divorce…Carrington MacDuffie provides a clear, precise narration.”

    SoundCommentary.com

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ann | 2/20/2014

    " About discovering her (Black) father's family . . . interesting. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sarah | 2/14/2014

    " I thought this was an amazing book--the author's story is compelling, and so is the story of her parents, a mixed-race couple of literary luminaries whose reasons for coming together are ambiguous even to themselves. Senna's exploration of her own ancestry opens up a new avenue for a relationship with her troubled father, and it's poignant to follow their story as it parallels her research. The first book I'd read by this author was Caucasia, which I liked, but I was much more drawn into this one. Outstanding. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Nijla Mumin | 2/1/2014

    " This memoir succeeds because of all of the rich details that Senna provides about her terse relationship with her father, and her family. She weaves these details in and out of her search of her familial history, and as a result, I was wholly involved in the narrative. I wanted to find the answers just as she did. I agree with other reviewers that there is a "detective" type element to the work. By the end, I also wanted to embark on a similar journey to uncover the unsaid and hidden parts of my ancestry and family. This book kept me thinking and pondering long after I read it. An awesome read for those interested in the intersection of personal, racial, and familial identity formation and discovery. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Gene | 1/28/2014

    " Danzy Senna's got a WOW family history. She knows a lot about what makes her interesting, but it's the missing information that sends her down South to track her black father's heritage. On the white side of Danzy's family: money, clout, literary acumen and long-time priviledge. On the black side: apparently not a lot until Danzy digs among the "almost" family her father depended on as an abandoned child. Families so interest me and it's not often I find one that draws me in like Danzy's. (Swallow the Ocean by Laura Flynn, The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, All Over But the Shoutin' by Rick Bragg and The Color of Water by James McBride are other fine memoirs.) Danzy Senna's got the word gift. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Andrea | 1/22/2014

    " The author's parents, both writers, but her mother a white woman from Boston and her father an African American man originally from the south, married in 1968. The marriage dissolved as the author's father became abusive and alcoholic. Senna's mother's family, Boston bluebloods, have a well-publicized history, but her father's history, and the roots of his frustration, are a mystery to her until she explores them as an adult. The book is touching and well-written, but it seemed to me the author didn't learn enough to really flexh out the social context well. I still felt rather mystified at the end. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Louise | 1/15/2014

    " Thoughtful, highly readable autobiography of author Danzy Senna a bi-racial child of black father and white mother. She appears white and explores racial issues through her own personal history. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Stephanie | 1/14/2014

    " Good, quick read but heavy. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Annie | 1/7/2014

    " Learning where you come from is never too easy. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Colin | 1/4/2014

    " 3.5 stars. Senna crafts an engaging, complicated and meandering journey into her family history. There were moments that jumped out as repetative on occasion, but overall it was a good read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kimberly | 12/13/2013

    " A wonderful portrait of a family fractured by divorce. Senna's story is honest and beautiful. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Linda | 10/15/2013

    " incredible story of one woman's search for her lineage and of how race informs so much of who we are. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Dr. Marcia Chatelain | 7/30/2013

    " Gripping and sometimes painful exploration of how to be an adult when you have a complicated childhood. Senna's honesty and clarity are enviable and inspiring. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Rebecca | 6/23/2013

    " This book was too moving for me to easily sum up the experience of reading it, especially after having read the fictionalized version of her story in Caucasia. Deeply moving and thoughtfully written. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ann | 10/15/2012

    " surprising, revealing "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Elizabeth L. | 10/1/2011

    " Senna puts together a dramatic family puzzle, with honesty and style. She's speaking at NYPL on May 27 - - Rebecca "Third Wave Feminism" Walker will be interviewing her...pls come! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kathy | 8/15/2011

    " Digging up the family tree often leads to trouble. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Dr. | 6/19/2011

    " Gripping and sometimes painful exploration of how to be an adult when you have a complicated childhood. Senna's honesty and clarity are enviable and inspiring. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Annie | 7/16/2010

    " Learning where you come from is never too easy. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kather21 | 7/4/2010

    " Digging up the family tree often leads to trouble. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Linda | 5/6/2010

    " incredible story of one woman's search for her lineage and of how race informs so much of who we are. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ann | 3/14/2010

    " About discovering her (Black) father's family . . . interesting. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Anna | 12/23/2009

    " Senna examines race, racialization, miscegenation, family and national secrets through the lens of her own multi-racial background--her blueblood Bostonian mother and black father, both writers. She writes dispassionately of a subject about which she is passionate. A true mystery story. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Colin | 12/9/2009

    " 3.5 stars. Senna crafts an engaging, complicated and meandering journey into her family history. There were moments that jumped out as repetative on occasion, but overall it was a good read. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Barbw | 9/18/2009

    " I wanted the ending to turn out different than it did. One frustrating book.
    "

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About the Author
Author Danzy Senna

Danzy Senna grew up in Boston and attended Stanford University. She holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of California, Irvine, where she received several creative writing awards. She is the author of the novels Caucasia and Symptomatic. She lives in New York City.

About the Narrator

Carrington MacDuffie is a voice actor and recording artist who has narrated over two hundred audiobooks, received numerous AudioFile Earphones Awards, and has been a frequent finalist for the Audie Award, including for her original audiobook, Many Things Invisible. Alongside her narration work, she has released a new album of original songs, Only an Angel.