Black History Month: “Passing”

Nella Larsen’s “Passing,” first published in 1929.

Larsen, who lived from April 13,1893 to March 30, 1964, was a member of the Harlem Renaissance of writers, credited with writing two novels (the earlier books is Quicksand) and short stories. She later became a nurse.

Her writing is credited for delving not only into issues of race, but also of gender and sexuality.

From a textbook publisher’s guide to Passing:

The most obvious tradition in which to situate Larsen’s novels must be the novel-of-passing, which problematized questions of race. Deemphasizing “biology,” the novel-of-passing provided convenient ways to explore race as a construct of history, culture, and white supremacist ideology. Equally important is the tradition of the novel of manners, as well as the romance.

From the jacket copy of the Penguin edition:

Clare Kendry leads a dangerous life. Fair, elegant, and ambitious, she is married to a white man unaware of her African American heritage, and has severed all ties to her past. Clare’s childhood friend, Irene Redfield, just as light-skinned, has chosen to remain within the African American community, but refuses to acknowledge the racism that continues to constrict her family’s happiness. A chance encounter forces both women to confront the lies they have told others-and the secret fears they have buried within themselves.

For more information:

The previous authors and writings featured on this blog:
“The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano”
Gwendolyn Brooks
August Wilson
“Our Nig” by Harriet Wilson
“Twelve Years A Slave” by Solomon Nothup
“The Souls of Black Folks” by W.E.B. Du Bois
Langston Hughes
“Cane” by Jean Toomer
“The Great Negro Plot” by Mat Johnson


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