When Danzy Senna began reading excerpts from her newly published book Where Did You Sleep Last Night? it felt as if she were reading it to me. I was captivated at the very moment she began her reading. Where Did You Sleep Last Night? chronicles Danzy’s journey to find out about her fathers roots. She started this journey as a way to try and begin to understand her father and his actions which took place when Danzy was very young.
Listening to Danzy speak was like hearing my inner conscience speak. During her speech she detailed how some members of her family, including her father, were not so happy about the book’s publishing. She spoke on how many people don’t like to hear the truth especially if they feel that it reflects badly on them. Members of my family, at least in my opinion, are that way as well. I consider myself to be a very honest person, but when I try to be honest many members of my family say that that did not occur that way or that I got the wrong impression.
One of the most interesting aspects of her speech was her emphasis on race. She dealt with race at a very young age of course, since she had a Caucasian mother and an African American father. But, one of the things that stuck out to me was when she brought up how even though she dealt with race as a kid it affected her the most when she finally had her own kids. She spoke about how she wanted to shield her children from the world when they were first born. She did not want them to be judged as she was. She remembered the reactions her children would get when family or friends would call or come over. They would call and say “how does he look”; in Danzy’s mind referring to the skin tone or they would see them and say “is he going to get any darker?.”
Captivating and inspiring; those are just a couple of the words that can be used to describe the atmosphere at the book reading by Joseph O’Connor. At the beginning of the readings he discussed his love of going to the library and poets that inspired him, such as John Dunn. He then went about reading pieces of his own work. He began by reading a piece where he describes the first time he became aware of singer Patti Smith. In his eyes the word pretty could not describe Patti Smith “she was something much more troubling… [she was] androgynous, sullen, unconventionally gorgeous…” He then went on to read selected passages from his novels which included Redemption Falls, The Secret World of An Irish Male and his latest, which he finished here at Baruch College, called Ghosts. Although all great, an excellent an argument can be made that one of the most poignant times at the reading was Reading Tennyson with Sean where he speaks about the connection between his father and himself. A moment made all the more special because, as he was reading ,his parents were seated in the audience. One of the other very memorable moments at the reading happened as the event was coming to a close. His final reading of the night was called “Tower” a poem about Baruch, its culture and its surroundings. In the poem which was dedicated to all the students at Baruch he speaks about all the different people he sees and all the hustle and bustle of Manhattan. The poem was comical and yet at the same time gripping as he describes how he witnessed the tragedy of September 11th 2001 from his room at the north corner in the Journalism department. As he closes the poem, which was musical at many points, it sounds like a hip-hop record. At the end of the poem he repeats the word “tower” approximately eight times. He said that when it is published he wants the words to create a tower, As the reading came to a close the room gave him great applause.