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Reader’s Den

The Reader's Den: "Passing" by Nella Larsen


Welcome to July’s edition of the Reader’s Den!  This month we will be reading and discussing Passing by Nella Larsen. Published in 1929, it is a novel of modern black life whose relationships are wrought with psychological tension.

Passing follows the rekindling of a friendship between two black women who cross the color line.  Irene Redfield’s comfortable, middle-class life in Harlem is put on edge when a lost childhood friend, Clare Kendry, reenters her life.  Fair-skinned and charming, Clare, passing for white, hides her true identity from her self-proclaimed racist husband. She reaches out to Irene to reconnect with her black roots.  Ethical questions create anxiety for Irene, who can’t reconcile Clare’s risky actions, although Irene herself chooses to pass as white occasionally. The emotional tension leads to alarming consequences.

Please feel free to post comments, reviews, or questions about the novel at any time during the discussion.  Please visit the Catalog or your local Library branch to find a copy of Passing, or search for a copy at your nearest library through WorldCat.


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Here's some interesting

Here's some interesting trivia about the author, I believe she worked for a while at the Countee Cullen Branch of NYPL.

Thank you for noting this,

Thank you for noting this, Ursula. Nella Larsen actually worked at the 135th Street branch, which would later become the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Please look for the next Reader's Den post for more information about the author.

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