Nella Larsen’s powerful, thrilling, and tragic tale about the fluidity of racial identity that continues to resonate today. A New York Times Editors’ Choice
Clare Kendry is living on the edge. Light-skinned, elegant, and ambitious, she is married to a racist white man unaware of her African American heritage, and has severed all ties to her past after deciding to “pass” as a white woman. Clare’s childhood friend, Irene Redfield, just as light-skinned, has chosen to remain within the African American community, and is simultaneously allured and repelled by Clare’s risky decision to engage in racial masquerade for personal and societal gain. After frequenting African American-centric gatherings together in Harlem, Clare’s interest in Irene turns into a homoerotic longing for Irene’s black identity that she abandoned and can never embrace again, and she is forced to grapple with her decision to pass for white in a way that is both tragic and telling. This edition features a new introduction by Emily Bernard and notes by Thadious M. Davis.
Generally regarded as Nella Larsen’s best work, Passing was first published in 1929 but has received a lot of renewed attention because of its close examination of racial & sexual ambiguities. It has achieved canonical status in many American universities.
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