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Passing
     

Passing

3.4 65
by Nella Larsen
 

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The heroine of Passing takes an elevator from the infernal August Chicago streets to the breezy rooftop of the heavenly Drayton Hotel, "wafted upward on a magic carpet to another world, pleasant, quiet, and strangely remote from the sizzling one that she had left below." Irene is black, but like her author, the Danish-African American Nella Larsen (a star of the 1920s

Overview

The heroine of Passing takes an elevator from the infernal August Chicago streets to the breezy rooftop of the heavenly Drayton Hotel, "wafted upward on a magic carpet to another world, pleasant, quiet, and strangely remote from the sizzling one that she had left below." Irene is black, but like her author, the Danish-African American Nella Larsen (a star of the 1920s to mid-1930s Harlem Renaissance and the first black woman to win a Guggenheim creative-writing award), she can "pass" in white society. Yet one woman in the tea room, "fair and golden, like a sunlit day," keeps staring at her, and eventually introduces herself as Irene's childhood friend Clare, who left their hometown 12 years before when her father died. Clare's father had been born "on the left hand"--he was the product of a legal marriage between a white man and a black woman and therefore cut off from his inheritance. So she was raised penniless by white racist relatives, and now she passes as white. Even Clare's violent white husband is in the dark about her past, though he teases her about her tan and affectionately calls her "Nig." He laughingly explains: "When we were first married, she was white as--as--well as white as a lily. But I declare she's getting darker and darker." As Larsen makes clear, Passing can also mean dying, and Clare is in peril of losing her identity and her life.

The tale is simple on the surface--a few adventures in Chicago and New York's high life, with lots of real people and race-mixing events described (explicated by Thadious M. Davis's helpful introduction and footnotes). But underneath, it seethes with rage, guilt, sex, and complex deceptions. Irene fears losing her black husband to Clare, who seems increasingly predatory. Or is this all in Irene's mind? And is everyone wearing a mask? Larsen's book is a scary hall of mirrors, a murder mystery that can't resolve itself. It sticks with you.

Product Details

BN ID:
2940011883767
Publisher:
Carry Light Books
Publication date:
10/01/2011
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
84
Sales rank:
1,235,642
File size:
114 KB

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Passing 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 65 reviews.
Jo-Ellen Asbury More than 1 year ago
This classic novel takes on the age-old question of African-Americans passing for white, and the consequences of that decision. The two main characters make different decisions and expereince different ends.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It's unfortunate that most people have never even heard of Nella Larsen let alone read her two indispensible novels, 'Quicksand' and 'Passing.' She was an incredibly talented writer and deserves to be compared with Virginia Woolf when it comes to complex characterizations. 'Passing' is a short novel but contains great thematic depth. This is a novel concerned not only with racial identity but also issues dealing with gender and sexuality. 'Passing' is a novel that left me spellbound with its vivid descriptions and provocative ideas. The two central characters, Irene and Clare, are very strongly written as they offer a keen insight into what it meant to be 'black' in 1920's America. The ending, in particular, is masterful because of its ambiguity. Highly recommended.
UHD-Student More than 1 year ago
He takes his classes seriously and recommends things that we can discuss. this book was good. I'm not really an avid book reader, but this might just do the trick
readalot123 More than 1 year ago
This was really hard to get through. It seemed to me to jump from place to place
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is required reading for anyone who is interested in black literary history or who wants to read work by women writers from the Harlem Renaissance. It's a fairly easy read, in that it's only around 100 pages, but it's quite a page turner and really pushes the reader to think about complicated issues of race and gender.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A Unique Story About Racism  Nella Larsen was an American writer during the Harlem Renaissance, which was a period with high racial tensions. Nella made it possible to connect with the issues of racism and sexism through her unique characters and plot. The idea of "passing" over as a white person and hiding one’s true identity is the main focus of this novel.  In the fictional novel, Irene Redfield and Clare Kendry are childhood friends, who are both half- black but are able to pass as  white, split up after the death of Clare's father. They meet later in life in Chicago and learn about each other's lives'. Clare has completely passed as a white and even married a white racist and Irene lives in Harlem and is married to a black doctor. Irene wants nothing to do with Clare but with her charms she is able to convince Irene for them to be friends again. The two become fascinated with each other’s lives’ and this all leads to a very tragic ending.  The novel is very memorable and thought-provoking. It provides digs deeps into the issues and effects of racism on an individual, a family and society as a whole. I was able to understand Irene as well as Clare, their behavior, and the fascination and jealously they had towards each other. I felt sympathy but also respect towards Irene because of the struggles that come with embracing her black heritage. The novel overall is a quick read that left me shocked and surprised as tragedy unfolded in the end.
Kelsey Foster More than 1 year ago
this book was way to wordy and it ended in what seemed like the middle of the story. overall it had a good concept though.
ProWriterDS More than 1 year ago
I am working on a novel in which one of the characters is passing. My character begins his duplicitous life in the late 1920s, the era Larsen wrote about in Passing. I read Passing for background on what my character might have encountered in this era in America. I found Nella Larsen's prose insightful and engaging. The intoduction and notes by Thadious M. Davis provided more insight and context for today's reader. I recommend the book to anyone who is intested in African American culture from the African American perspective. Again, Larsen and Davis offer an insightful and engaging persepective of this complicated life choice that is also entertaining.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Reading this book is like driving on a road with speed bumps. There is always something that kills the story line. There was definately something missing. If you don't like endings that don't have an ending this is not the book for you. However, I found that the ending was appropriate. Irene and Clare are the extreme cases of what is inside all people. I really thought it was going to be better.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A subtle account of some of the choices blacks made to survive in America.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
By a woman author from the Harlem Renaissance, Passing is a story about the importance and risk inherent in transcending social constructs (what you should be depending on your sex, race, marital status, etc.). Although the era in the story has passed, many of the conflicts affecting the characters are issues we continue to face today but dont usually discuss. Nelsons takes these on in an honest voice that conveys urgency but lets you reach your own conclusion, when you are ready.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not a long story but one that will live in your mind long after asking, "why?" I felt like the ending was abrupt. I still don't think I know what happened officially.....
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book explores a world that most of us are so far removed from. Its a quick read but a story you will never forget. All women should read this.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book was ok. It was very descriptive although a little too wordy at times. The story line was creative. Good, quick read.
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