Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.



4.0 1
by Danzy Senna

See All Formats & Editions

A young woman moves to New York City for what promises to be a dream job. Displaced, she feels unsure of her fit in the world. Then comes a look of recognition, a gesture of friendship from an older woman named Greta who shares the same difficult-to-place color of skin. On common ground, a tenuous alliance grows between two women in racial limbo. So too, does the


A young woman moves to New York City for what promises to be a dream job. Displaced, she feels unsure of her fit in the world. Then comes a look of recognition, a gesture of friendship from an older woman named Greta who shares the same difficult-to-place color of skin. On common ground, a tenuous alliance grows between two women in racial limbo. So too, does the older woman's unnerving obsession, leading to a collision of two lives spiraling out of control. A beautifully written novel, at once suspenseful, erotic, and tantalizingly clever, Symptomatic is a groundbreaking contribution to the literature of racial identity.

Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post
I guess "Symptomatic" is about the ruthlessness of society to people who just don't fit in...However sad the circumstances, the author has found an extraordinarily original way of addressing this aspect of our national narrative.
Carolyn See
Publishers Weekly
A young biracial woman's postcollege year in New York proves psychologically challenging in Senna's muddled second novel. The unnamed narrator has landed a prestigious fellowship and a job as a reporter at a big New York magazine, not to mention a "strange lovely" new boyfriend who moves her into his apartment faster than she can say "nice place." But when Andrew-who thinks she's white-introduces her to his Andover pals, racist comments send her on a hunt for independence and a place of her own. An older co-worker, Greta Hicks, comes to the rescue with a sublet offer from her hairdresser's cousin; it's in a "transitional" Brooklyn neighborhood, but, hey, the rent's cheap. The narrator, habitually musing on her secret history, slowly gets used to Brooklyn style as Greta insinuates herself into her life. Her love life rebounds when she's assigned a story on talented Ivers Greene, whom Greta calls "the great ghetto artiste" and who becomes the narrator's new beau. But Greta's being creepy-she suggests they give each other bikini waxes, for one thing-and then she starts spying on the narrator, berating her, stalking her, etc. The first half of Senna's novel works in places, particularly when she outlines her narrator's growing sense of alienation from Andrew, her fatigue with racial politics and her difficulties in adapting to New York life. But the second half turns increasingly lurid and cartoonish, particularly when Greta's relationship to the wild previous occupant of the narrator's apartment is revealed. Senna addressed similar issues of race and identity with verve and panache in Caucasian, but this follow-up shows signs of the sophomore slump. Agent, Sarah Chalfant at the Wylie Agency. (May) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Issues of identity, as in Senna's award-winning Caucasia. A young woman on a writing fellowship in New York sparks obsession in an older woman who shares her indeterminate skin color. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Adrift in New York, a young woman falls into the clutches of a predatory coworker. It all seemed so promising. Our nameless narrator arrives in the city from California to start her first job with a general-interest magazine. She has a newly minted degree and a prestigious journalism fellowship. Soon enough she meets a sweetly sad young guy on the subway and moves in with him. All goes well until Andrew takes her to meet his friends, WASPy Andover grads like himself. They make crass, racist remarks, and Andrew's girl retreats to the bathroom. She has a secret, you see: she's biracial, though she can pass for white when she chooses. Disenchanted with Andrew (how come they'd never discussed her family? ), she moves to a Brooklyn sublet; it has bad vibes, but the rent and space are right. She was referred by coworker Greta Hicks, a badly dressed older woman in a low-level job so pathetically eager for attention you'd think a smart cookie like our narrator would avoid her like the plague. But the author needs to hook them up because Greta, also of mixed race, is the vehicle she uses to give the issue a complete workout. Once the journalist has accepted Greta's overtures, there's no escaping her; only when Greta disparages the young woman's parents does she realize how "bilious" her putative friend can be. Greta's behavior becomes truly bizarre once the narrator starts dating a black artist. She spies on them from behind parked cars, then falls apart on the job and has to be removed from the building by security guards as she screams curses. The text closes with a melodramatic flourish on the roof of that Brooklyn apartment building. Credible characterization is the biggest casualty of thisslight, depressing, issue-driven second novel. Senna covered this ground much more convincingly in her award-winning debut (Caucasia, 1998).
From the Publisher
"A hypnotic psychological thriller." —Essence

"Read this novel." —Glamour

"Thoughtful and exciting. Highly recommended." —Library Journal

"Suspenseful, and the anguish her vividly relaized mixed-race characters feel when confronted with hostility from both ends of the racial spectrum is. sadly, all too authentic." —Booklist

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Sales rank:
File size:
268 KB
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Danzy Senna's first novel, Caucasia, was the winner of the Book-of-the-Month Club's Stephen Crane Award for First Fiction and an American Library Association Alex Award. It was a finalist for an International IMPAC Dublin Award, and was a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year. Her short fiction and essays have been widely anthologized. She is a recipient of the 2002 Whiting Writers' Award and currently holds the Jenks Chair of Contemporary American/Letters at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

Symptomatic 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Captivating. I enjoyed this book as I identified strongly with the protagonist who is coming into her own. Although the protagonist is black she is fair to the point that she can pass for white and although that is not my dilemma (smile) I identified with her as for me she wanted people to see her for who she is and its not about denying who you are but also forging an identity for yourself. The plot twists in this book, especially one, takes you through, but is a ride worth taking. I commend the author, Danzy Senna, on her writing style as I was right there in the trenches and felt that I was reading about me and not about a character out of a book.