Passing ... A Perspective in Two Novels
Passing ... A Perspective in Two Novels
Passing : A Novel
-- by Nella Larsen (Publisher description)
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
Irene Redfield, the novel's protagonist,
is a woman with an enviable life.
She and her husband, Brian,
a prominent physician, share
a comfortable town house
with their sons.
Her work arranging charity balls that
gather [the] 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.
Clarelight-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 `White'* 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."
Nella Larsen was born in Chicago of
interracial parentage on April 13, 1891.
She grew up in a `White'* world,
primarily among people of
German and Scandinavian stock.
Her first experience with an all-"black"^^
world occurred in 1909, when she
matriculated at the high school
division of Fisk University in Nashville .
After studying at the University of Copenhagen for
two years, Larsen moved to New York City in 1912
[i]n 1919 she married Elmer Samuel
Imes, a prominent "black"^^ research
physicist, who introduced her to
Harlem 's literary and social elite.
Larsen's first novel,'Quicksand',
was published in 1928 .
`Passing' was published in 1929.
In 1930 Larsen became thefirst
African-American woman to
be awarded a Guggenheim
Fellowship in creative writing.
She spent the last twenty years of her life
working as a nurse in Manhattan hospitals.
Nella Larsen died in New York City on March 30, 1964.
Passing : A Novel
-- by Patricia Jones (Publisher description)
Like a glass of lemonade that is both sweet and tart,
writer Patricia Jones mixes up a refreshing blend
of deep emotion and raw truth, tempered
by a grounded dose of wisdom.
To Lila Giles, the term "passing" refers to those
pale-hued folks who take advantage of their
creamy shade by crossing into the `White'* world.
Descended from a long line of an elite Baltimore
family awash with "high-colored" skin just right
for "passing", family lore told Lila that not one
of them would have thought to deny their
true selves and rich history in such a way.
It is this sense of pride that bonds the Giles
family together -- a bond strongly enforced
by Lila's controlling stepmother Eulelie.
But the delicate balance of this branch of the family
Eulelie has so carefully engineered is threatened
when Lila's brother decides to marry a
woman from an oh-so-very-wrong family.
A proud though severe matriarch, Eulelie Giles
has ruled her four grown stepchildren with a
heavy self-righteousness that could break
the spirit of the most sound opponent,
let alone the nearly thirty-year-old Lila.
Relentlessly loyal to her privileged world, Eulelie
has ingrained upon Lila and her three other
stepchildren the importance of distinguishing
between acceptable and unacceptable "blacks"^^.
Despite her strident belief in an unyielding class
line, Eulelie has kept a secret about her own
past that manages to affect, in more ways
than a few, anyone who enters her life.
As the wedding day draws closer, Lila begins
to look at her reality versus Eulelie's, and
what Lila finds leads to a confrontation
between stepmother and stepdaughter
that could finally shatter Eulelie's reign
over Lila and the family, but ultimately,
one that will lead Eulelie back to the truth.
Filled with multi-dimensional characters and rich
with atmosphere, Passing is a story of tangled
family relationships the secrets, misunderstanding,
and deceptions that hold them together.
**The term `Colored'** as used here is a reference to a
person who is of a `Multiracial' / `Mixed-Race `lineage that
also includes some part or amount of `Black / Negro' ancestry.
^^The term "black"^^ or "blacks"^^ as used here is a
reference to those `Multiracial' / `Mixed-Race' individuals
who were both of part-`Black / Negro' ancestry *and* who
*also*came to be referred to / categorized by the term "black"^^.
This categorization would have arisen either as a result of
the racist `One-Drop Rule' and / or as a result of taking
on the socio-political `identification' that, since the late
1960's, has come to be referred to by the term "black"^^.
These terms "black"^^ and / or "blacks"^^ when in reference
to a socio-political "identification" -- were originally applied
largely as a way of describing the new socio-political mindset
that became popular in the late 1960s wherein many who
were of at least some-part `Black / Negro' lineage chose to
------ openly support of the new pan-African,
anti-colonialist movement of the late 1960s;
------ refuse to hold or see the their or another's
`Black / Negro' ancestral lineage as being "shameful";
------ and provide support for the whole idea of making
sure that equal rights would become granted to those
people who suffered discrimination due to having
`Black / Negro' ancestry in their familial,
ethnic, racial or even cultural lineage.
As a result of the racist `One-Drop Rule' the terms
"black"^^ and "blacks"^^ were broad-brushed applied to
entire people groupings (as a `political catch-phrase')
as instructed by the western media and politicians.
The term `Black' as used here is in reference those
who are of `Black / Negro' lineage and who also have very
little to no* known or acknowledged non-`Black / Negro' ancestry.
The "Racial"-Term `Black' is *not* the same as
the Socio-Political-`Identification' of "black"^^
*The term `White'* as used here is a reference to a person who
has no known or acknowledged non-'White / Caucasian' ancestry.
The terms `Pass' and `Passing' as used here is
reference to a person who hid, denied or pretended to
have no known non-White (and particular `Black / Negro')
ancestry and / or who would simply choose to `remain
silent' on the whole matter and let strangers `draw their
own conclusions' based solely on their physical appearance.