Book - 2000
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Restless Classics presents the ninetieth anniversary edition of an undersung gem of the Harlem Renaissance: Nella Larsen's Passing , a captivating and prescient exploration of identity, sexuality, self-invention, class, and race set amidst the pealing boisterousness of the Jazz Age.

When childhood friends Irene Redfield and Clare Kendry cross paths at a whites-only restaurant, it's been decades since they last met. Married to a bigoted white man who has no idea that she is African American, Clare has fully embraced her ability to "pass" as a white woman. Irene, also light-skinned and living in Harlem, is shocked by Clare's rejection of her heritage, though she too passes when it suits her needs. This encounter sparks an intense relationship between the two women who, as acclaimed critic and novelist Darryl Pinckney writes in his insightful introduction, reflect Larsen's own experience of being "between black and white, and culturally at home nowhere."

In a culture intent on setting boundaries, Clare and Irene refuse to adhere to expectations of gender, race, or class, culminating in a tragic clash of identities, as their relationship swings between emotional hostility and intense attraction.

Publisher: New York : Modern Library, ©2000.
Edition: 2000 Modern Library ed.
ISBN: 9781632062024
Branch Call Number: LARSEN N
Characteristics: xiv, 182 pages ; 19 cm


From Library Staff

If you like Nella Larsen's classic novel about wealthy black women passing as white in high-society 1920s New York...

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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.

Dec 13, 2013

An important novel of the Harlem Renaissance. Also see the book and film "Imitation of Life," which explores a similar subject (a light-skinned black character "passing" as white).


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