Book - 2002 | Modern Library pbk. ed.
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A reprint of Harlem Renaissance writer Nella Larsen's 1929 novel in which Irene, an African-American woman with a comfortable life, is disturbed by the return of a childhood friend, Clare, who has passed for white since adolescence and now wants to rejoin the African-American community.
Publisher: New York : Modern Library, 2002.
Edition: Modern Library pbk. ed.
ISBN: 9780375758133
Branch Call Number: F LAR
Characteristics: lxxxv, 206 p. ; 21 cm.
Study Program: Accelerated Reader AR UG 5.7 5.0 60413.
Call Number: F LAR


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Aug 13, 2020

This book tells the tale of 'passing' in America (in the late 1920's), which I believe is a topic many people are unaware of. It follows characters Irene and Clare, who are light-skinned African American women that could 'pass' as white if they wished. While Clare has 'passed', married a white man, and considers herself a white woman, Irene has chosen to embrace her African American heritage. When meeting by chance, both women develop a curiosity for each other's different lifestyles. With a surprising ending, this book definitely leaves readers wondering what will happen as they turn the page!

Aug 08, 2020

Set in the late 1920s in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City, Passing centers on the reunion of two childhood friends- Irene Redfield and Clare Kendry- and the development of their reignited relationship.

Passing, in sociological terms, refers to the ability of someone who identifies with one identity group- such as racial identity, social class, or sexual orientation- who can “pass”, or be regarded, for another.

In the novel, both Irene and Clare are African-American/Caucasian biracial women who can pass for white. However, the greatest divergence of their relationship is that Irene has chosen to openly embrace her African-American ancestry whereas Clare has fully “passed over” and only identifies as white. Their reunion instigates a rapidly growing sense of curiosity for how the other lives in society.

Through Passing, Larsen, a biracial woman herself, expands on what it means to be biracial and how such categorization isn’t as distinct as most believe for it to be. In addition to the topic of race, Larsen seamlessly incorporates other themes- such as feminism, classism, sexuality, and mental illness- in the novel, providing for an intricately crafted text of intersectionality.

Furthermore, Larsen’s style of writing is very fluid and similar to that of someone’s running thoughts. For some readers, this may make the novel difficult to interpret, yet the constant hyphenation and deep introspection heightens the ambiguity of the plot, not unlike the concept of passing itself.

I highly recommend this novel because, despite its shorter length, it is rich with the discussion of so many important topics, and it encourages readers to further research and have open conversations about such topics.

Mar 02, 2020

Explores a complex topic with complex consequences. Language is real and tangible, with compelling characters and inviting story. Short and effective. An oft overlooked classic.

Jan 30, 2020

Terrific book with a shocking ending. I had no idea themes on race and what it means to be Black in America that I would consider contemporary, were being discussed and debated when this book was written almost 100 years ago. Highly recommended.

Sep 13, 2019

Heartbreaking story, but well-told and featuring memorable characters. It's a quick read, but perfectly paced. I heard they're making a movie of it. Here's hoping it does this gem of a novella justice.

Aug 01, 2019

Harlem Renaissance writer. This novel is about two light-skinned childhood friends; one chooses to pass and marry a rich man, one chooses to stay in her community and live a middle-class life. It is a book about race and class. Very good.

ArapahoeKati Jun 24, 2019

What if you could pass as white? That's the question in Nella Larsen's 1929 novel, which also has one of the most ambiguous endings in literary fiction. A classic, and true to the time period in which it was written.

Feb 24, 2019

Beautifully written. How one person can live in two worlds. When racial identity often imprisons and limits, forcing the normal human spirit into a cage constructed of repressive restrictions.

Jul 27, 2018

Recc by Goodreads Jul 2018

Sep 14, 2015

Definitely an important and complicated novella of the Harlem Renaissance. Psychologically charged and dark.

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