Nella Larsen's novel Passing is an eloquent and revealing portrayal of two women during the 1920s in New York City. Irene lives a comfortable, enviable life as the wife of a prominent Harlem physician. Her world is turned upside down by the reappearance of an old friend, Clare, who since her adolescence has "passed" for white, even to the extent of marrying a bigoted man. Clare's attraction to the community she left behind so long ago, and her intrusion upon Irene's security, blend to alter forever the lives of both women. — Bob Gray
Clare Kendry lives two lives. In one she is a middle class white woman who has been happily married for years; in the other she is a light skinned black woman and the childhood friend of Irene Redfield. When at last the truth of Clare's past is revealed it threatens to destroy her marriage and Irene's sanity in the process. Larsen's beautifully crafted novella begs the question, how long can you live a lie? — Northshire Staff
Nella Larsen, one of the most acclaimed and influential writers of the Harlem Renaissance, was born Nellie Walker on April 13, 1891, in Chicago. In the 1910s she came to New York, where she worked as a nurse and a librarian, and in 1919 she married a research physicist. She began publishing stories in the mid-1920s and published her first novel, Quicksand, in 1928. Passing came out the following year. Larsen was awarded a William E. Harmon Bronze Award for Distinguished Achievement Among Negroes and a Guggenheim fellowship. Encountering personal and professional struggles, she was unable to have her third novel accepted for publication and by the end of the 1930s had stopped writing altogether. She worked full time as a nurse until her death in 1964.
Emily Bernard is the author of Carl Van Vechten and the Harlem Renaissance: A Portrait in Black and White. Her other books include Remember Me to Harlem: The Letters of Langston Hughes and Carl Van Vechten (2001), which was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year; Some of My Best Friends: Writers on Interracial Friendships (2004), chosen by the New York Public Library as a Book for the Teen Age; and Michelle Obama: The First Lady in Photographs (2009), a book she coauthored with Deborah Willis, which received a 2010 NAACP Image Award. Her essays have been published in several anthologies and journals, such as The American Scholar, Oxford American magazine, The Best American Essays, Best African American Essays, and The Best Creative Nonfiction. She is a professor of English and Critical Race and Ethnic Studies at the University of Vermont.
Thadious M. Davis is Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought and Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of Nella Larsen: Novelist of the Harlem Renaissance. She previously taught at Vanderbilt University, Brown University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has been a fellow at the Newberry Library in Chicago, the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, and the Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library. She is the editor of the Penguin Classics edition of Nella Larsen’s Quicksand.