Book - 2003
Average Rating:
Rate this:
Nella Larsen's powerful, thrilling, and tragic tale about the fluidity of racial identity that continues to resonate today. A New York Times Editors' Choice

Clare Kendry is living on the edge. Light-skinned, elegant, and ambitious, she is married to a racist white man unaware of her African American heritage, and has severed all ties to her past after deciding to "pass" as a white woman. Clare's childhood friend, Irene Redfield, just as light-skinned, has chosen to remain within the African American community, and is simultaneously allured and repelled by Clare's risky decision to engage in racial masquerade for personal and societal gain. After frequenting African American-centric gatherings together in Harlem, Clare's interest in Irene turns into a homoerotic longing for Irene's black identity that she abandoned and can never embrace again, and she is forced to grapple with her decision to pass for white in a way that is both tragic and telling. This edition features a new introduction by Emily Bernard and notes by Thadious M. Davis.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.
Publisher: New York : Penguin Books, 2003
ISBN: 9780142437278
Branch Call Number: FIC LARSEN
Characteristics: xxxv, 122 pages ; 20 cm


From Library Staff

First published in 1929, the novel explores the interrelated issues of race and class during the cultural upheavals of the 1920s. Also available in ebook and downloadable audiobook formats.

An upper middle-class woman reconnects with a lighter-skinned friend who has left the black community to pass as white. (122 pages)

Like Hansberry, Harlem Renaissance author Nella Larsen detailed the psychological toll of racism on African American characters in her work. In PASSING, a nuanced exploration of racial politics and the risk of defiance, an upper middle-class woman reconnects with a lighter-skinned friend who has ... Read More »

From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

Jul 27, 2018

Recc by Goodreads Jul 2018

Sep 14, 2015

Definitely an important and complicated novella of the Harlem Renaissance. Psychologically charged and dark.

Dec 13, 2013

An important novel of the Harlem Renaissance. Also see the book and film "Imitation of Life," which explores a similar subject (a light-skinned black character "passing" as white).


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at SPL

To Top