Passing

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Random House Publishing Group, Dec 18, 2007 - Fiction - 304 pages
3 Reviews
First published to critical acclaim in 1929, Passing firmly established Nella Larsen's prominence among women writers of the Harlem Renaissance. The Modern Library is proud to present Passing—an electrifying story of two women who cross the color line in 1920s New York—together with a new Introduction by the Obie Award- winning playwright and novelist Ntozake Shange.

Irene Redfield, the novel's protagonist, is a woman with an enviable life. She and her husband, Brian, a prominent physician, share a comfortable Harlem town house with their sons. Her work arranging charity balls that gather Harlem's elite creates a sense of purpose and respectability for Irene. But her hold on this world begins to slip the day she encounters Clare Kendry, a childhood friend with whom she had lost touch. Clare—light-skinned, beautiful, and charming—tells Irene how, after her father's death, she left behind the black neighborhood of her adolescence and began passing for white, hiding her true identity from everyone, including her racist husband. As Clare begins inserting herself into Irene's life, Irene is thrown into a panic, terrified of the consequences of Clare's dangerous behavior. And when Clare witnesses the vibrancy and energy of the community she left behind, her burning desire to come back threatens to shatter her careful deception.

Brilliantly plotted and elegantly written, Passing offers a gripping psychological portrait of emotional extremity. The New York Times Book Review called Larsen "adroit at tracing the involved processes of a mind divided against itself, that fights between the dictates of reason and desire." The Saturday Review of Literature said, "[Larsen] has produced a work so fine, sensitive, and distinguished that it rises above race categories and becomes that rare object, a good novel."
 

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - stipe168 - LibraryThing

"passing" refers to light-skinned african americans passing as white-skinned americans. it's a very interesting dynamic and this novel handles the confusion and fear associated with it. very well done. Read full review

Passing

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Another trailblazer, Larsen wrote this novel in 1929. It follows Clare Kendry and Irene Redfield, two light-skinned black women who try to escape racism. Kendry chooses to sever all ties with her ... Read full review

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About the author (2007)

Nella Larsen (1891–1964) was the author of several short stories and two novels, Quicksand and Passing. She received a Guggenheim Fellowship to write a third novel in 1930 but, unable to find a publisher for it, she disappeared from the literary scene and worked as a nurse in New York City.

Ntozake Shange is an American playwright and poet. Shange is a black feminist and a critic of the Black Arts Movement. She majored in American Studies at Barnard and earned a master's degree in the same field at UCLA. Her most famous work, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf, moved from Off-Broadway to Broadway and won the Obie Award, the Outer Critics Circle Award, and the AUDELCO Award.

Mae Henderson is a professor of English at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is the author of numerous articles on pedagogy, diasporic writing and performance, cultural studies and cultural criticism, as well as black feminist criticism and theory. Her essay "Speaking in Tongues: Dialogics, Dialectics, and the Black Woman Writer's Literary Tradition" has been widely anthologized. Henderson is also the editor of Black Queer Studies: A Critical Anthology and Borders, Boundaries and Frames, and coeditor (with John Blassingame) of the five-volume Antislavery Newspapers and Periodicals: An Annotated Index of Letters, 1817–1871.

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