Senna claims he handed over his genealogical research to his daughter in 2005, when she visited him at his home in New Brunswick, Canada. She told him she was working on a book about his mother and “black women pre-1954 in the South,” according to the complaint.
But according to the New York Times Book Review, “Where Did You Sleep Last Night, A Personal History,” follows Danzy Senna’s quest to discover “if her father’s alcohol-fueled descent from young literary lion of the 1960s … to abusive husband and neglectful parent has to do with the negative space left by the father he never knew.”
In his complaint, the father lists 27 allegedly defamatory statements from the book, including the claim that he dragged her mother into the street, beat her, broke her nose and “mutilated” her breast, so that “in the place where one of her breasts should have been was a bloody gaping hole.”
He claims: “Nothing of the kind ever happened.”
He also objects to a paragraph on page 181 of the book: “my father blames his every misdeed and failing on society – racism, poverty – never on himself. His problems were largely social and political issues. The fact that he’d been abusive to my mother, and that he’d been unable to support his family – those were, according to him, problems of society. When I wrote him letters trying to force him to confront his behavior, he would send me back a treatise on racism and poverty and social forces.”
Carl Senna claims: “The statement is untrue.” He adds: “Had plaintiff known of the true subject matter of the book, plaintiff would never have shared his research and documents with defendant Senna.”
He claims that he told Farrar, Straus and Giroux that the book defamed him, but it published it anyway.
In the complaint, Carl Senna says he wrote the books, “The Black Press and the Struggle for Civil Rights,” “Colin Powell: A Man of War and Peace” and “The Fallacy of I.Q.” He says he also taught classes at Harvard, Tufts and Xavier University.
He seeks punitive damages for libel, privacy invasion, fraud, and misappropriation of his name and likeness. He is represented by Dana Milmeister.
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