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Novelist Senna, cultural critic Touré to offer insights on racial identity in OIE events

Novelist Danzy Senna.

In January and February, Bates’ Office of Intercultural Education presents talks on race, identity and 21st-century America by best-selling novelist Danzy Senna and author-cultural critic Touré.

Senna, author of the award-winning Caucasia, speaks at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 25.

Touré, a journalist and commentator whom Newsweek editor Tina Brown described as “a one-man media conglomerate,” speaks at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 8.

Both events take place at the Benjamin Mays Center, 95 Russell St. They are open to the public at no cost and will be followed by book signings. For more information, please contact 207-786-8303 or eburke@bates.edu.

Senna’s novel Caucasia (Riverhead Trade, 1999) won the Book of the Month Award for First Fiction and the American Library Association’s Alex Award. It was named a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year and has been translated into eight languages.

Drawing on her experiences as a biracial child in Boston in the 1970s, during a time of intense racial conflict, Senna engages themes of race, identity and gender. Though dealing in complex issues, her work is praised for conveying the complexity of racial identity in postmillennial America in a relatable and thought-provoking way.

As The New York Times wrote about her 2011 short-story collection You Are Free: Stories (Riverhead), “Though [these] stories address race, class and gender, they never devolve into simple case studies. Rather, her collection offers nuanced portraits of characters confronting anxieties and prejudices that leave them not as free as they would like to be.”

Senna’s other works include the 2010 memoir Where Did You Sleep Last Night? A Personal History (Picador) and the novel Symptomatic (Riverhead, 2004).

She holds a master’s of fine arts in creative writing from the University of California, Irvine. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, novelist Percival Everett, and their sons. Learn more.

Musical journalist and cultural critic Touré.

Touré is one of the most important writers on culture and race in America. He is a contributing editor at Rolling Stone, hosts the programs The Hip-Hop Shop and On the Record on the Fuse network, and appears on numerous talk shows, including Anderson Cooper 360 and NBC’s Today and Dateline.

Touré’s books include Soul City: A Novel (Picador, 2005), Never Drank the Kool-Aid: Essays (Picador, 2006), and the acclaimed Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness (Free Press, 2011).

He explores existing, and succeeding, as an individual of color in a white world; the influence and significance of pop culture, particularly hip-hop; and interracial dating in America. Examining what it means to be black today and how this definition has changed, Who’s Afraid looks at the concept of “post-blackness,” which refers to the desire to be rooted in, but not constrained by, the categories of racial identity politics.

Blending intimate, funny and painful anecdotes from his own life with more than 100 interviews with prominent figures, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Cornel West and Soledad O’Brien, the book grounds political, social and psychological theory in the contemporary United States.

As NAACP President Benjamin Jealous wrote, Who’s Afraid is a “fascinating conversation among some of America’s most brilliant and insightful black thinkers candidly exploring black identity in America today.

“Touré powerfully captures the pain and dissonance of black Americans’ far too often unrequited love for our great nation.” Learn more.



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