Passing

Introduction

Passing is a novel[a] by American author Nella Larsen, first published in 1929. Set primarily in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City in the 1920s, the story centers on the reunion of two childhood friends, Clare Kendry and Irene Redfield, and their increasing fascination with each other's lives. The title refers to the practice of racial "passing", and is a key element of the novel; Clare Kendry's attempt to pass as white for her husband, John (Jack) Bellew, is its most significant depiction in the novel, and a catalyst for the tragic events.

Larsen's exploration of race was informed by her own mixed racial heritage and the increasingly common practice of racial passing in the 1920s. Praised upon publication, the novel has since been celebrated in modern scholarship for its complex depiction of race, gender and sexuality, and is the subject of considerable scholarly criticism. As one of only two novels that Larsen wrote, Passing has been significant in placing its author at the forefront of several literary canons.


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