Passing: When People Can't Be Who They Areby Brooke Kroeger
Despite the many social changes of the last half-century, many Americans still "pass": black for white, gay for straight, and now in many new ways as well. We tend to think of passing in negative terms--as deceitful, cowardly, a betrayal of one's self. But this compassionate book reveals that many passers today are people of good heart and purpose whose decision to pass is an attempt to bypass injustice, and to be more truly themselves.
Passing tells the poignant, complicated life stories of a black man who passed as a white Jew; a white woman who passed for black; a working class Puerto Rican who passes for privileged; a gay, Conservative Jewish seminarian and a lesbian naval officer who passed for straight; and a respected poet who radically shifts persona to write about rock'n'roll. The stories, interwoven with others from history, literature, and contemporary life, explore the many forms passing still takes in our culture; the social realities which make it an option; and its logistical, emotional, and moral consequences. We learn that there are still too many institutions, environments, and social situations that force honorable people to twist their lives into painful, deceit-ridden contortions for reasons that do not hold.
Passing is an intellectually absorbing exploration of a phenomenon that has long intrigued scholars, inspired novelists, and made hits of movies like The Crying Game and Boys Don't Cry.
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Meet the Author
Brooke Kroeger wrote the biographies, Nellie Bly: Daredevil, Reporter, Feminist, and Fannie: The Talent for Success of Writer Fannie Hurst, and is an associate professor of journalism at New York University. A former foreign correspondent and editor, she has written widely for newspapers and magazines. She lives in Manhattan.
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When the idea of passing comes to mind, most would first think of racial minoritespassing as white to live with the priveleges the white race comes with. What Brooke Kroeger attempted to do with 'Passing' is reveal a side of this epidemic that wouldn't necessarily come to mind when asked. Minorities passing for white very well may be a common theme in today's world, but Kroeger worked to provide insight on other examples of passing: blacks passing for white Jews, homosexuals passing for straight to follow dreams of becoming arabbi, a respected male poet passing for a female rock 'n roll enthusiast. Are these people wrong for not waiting for social change, for instead taking matters into their own hands and risking their jobs, relationships, etc. by pretending to be something they aren't? Kroeger explores this phenomenon that has intrigued scholars for decades. Kroeger seems to have based 'Passing' on an earlier tale of a light-skinned African-American woman who passes for white and cuts off all ties to her African-American background to marry a white man and live a white life. Kroeger makes a reference to 'Imitation of Life' by Fannie Hurst early on in her book 'Passing' retells this story in sic more contemporary ways, each story becoming more complex than the one before. With each story, Kroeger instills a questioning of views, on the phenomenon of passing in itself, and on society's flaws in general. It challenges the idea that the phenomenon itself might not be as deceitful and cowardly as one might think. Kroeger has succeeded in creating a piece of work that not only gives reasoning to the act of passing, but sheds light on the injustices still intertwined in modern society, the same injustices we have fought to eliminate for decades.