Pitch-perfect period details and a superbly empathic protagonist — upon whose body racial dissonance is literally played out — form the backdrop to this sophisticated and compelling debut novel. Birdy and Cole are the daughters of a black father and a white mother, intellectuals and activists in the civil rights movement in 1970s Boston. The sisters are so close that they have created a private language, yet to the outside world, they can’t be sisters: Birdie appears to be white, while Cole is dark enough to fit in with the other kids at the Afrocentric school they attend. But then their parents’ marriage falls apart, the girls are separated, and Birdie and her mother must assume a new and perplexing identity. Inspired by Senna’s own life, Caucasia raises questions of biracialism that contribute to the poignancy, realistic complexity, and nuance intrinsic to the novel.