“Passing” by Nella Larsen was a very poignant and powerful read. It explores the concept of passing which is basically pretending to be someone you’re not for your own personal, selfish gain. Ms. Larsen’s achieves this through her two main characters, both African-American women, Irene and Clare.
Irene was born African-American, and she grows up to marry a successful African-American doctor. As a result, she chooses to stay within the African-American community, and she only “passes” when it’s convenient for her, or at times when she is in a position to gain. On the other hand, Clare, who was also born African-American, chooses to disregard her African-American roots and live her life solely as a white woman. She embraces all that it has to offer…even her husband doesn’t know she’s black.
As the story unfolds, both these women are made to choose what’s most important to them, and, strangely enough, neither is happy with the path they have chosen. Irene is a woman who could be happy with her life if it were not for her dark-skinned husband. He refuses to conform to the life that she wants, and she neglects to address “the race issue.” Moreover, Clare has everything she wants but not everything she needs. Because she finds out that she needs exactly what she’s been trying to erase from her life a long time. And, in the end, the realization of each one’s life and its direction leads to dire consequences…
I would recommend “Passing” to anyone who’s looking to read about why people do the things they do, and what is ultimately behind their decisions. I enjoyed reading this book, and could not put it down. However, I wish that Ms. Larsen would have continued on with her story a little while longer instead of bringing it to such a drastic halt.
I give it 4 stars.