Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Book Review: Passing by Nella Larsen


Passing by Nella Larsen
Rating: 3/5

An interesting story written in 1929 about two women. One black but passing as a white woman, the other black but choosing not to pass even though her skin and features would allow her to. These two women reconnect after years apart and the story depicts their lives and the choices these two woman made.

The most dramatic part of the book is the life of the woman passing as white, you see she's married to racist, check out this excerpt which I found garring:
     An on-looker, Irene reflected, would have thought it a most congenial tea-party, all smiles and jokes and hilarious laughter. She said humorously: "So you dislike Negroes, Mr. Bellew?" But her amusement was at her thought, rather than her words.
     John Bellew gave a short denying laugh. "You got me wrong there, Mrs. Redfield. Nothing like that at all. I don't dislike them. I hate them. And so does Nig, for all she's trying to turn into one. She wouldn't have a nigger maid around her for love nor money. Not that I'd want her to. They give me the creeps. The black scrimy devils."
     That wasn't funny. Had Bellew, Irene inquired, ever known any Negroes? The defensive tone of her voice brought another start from the uncomfortable Gertrude, and, for all her appearance of serenity, a quick apprehensive look from Clare.
     Bellew answered: "Thank the Lord, no! And never expect to! But I know people who've known them, better than they know their black selves. and I read in the papers about them. Always robbing and killing people. And," he added darkly, "worse."

Wow! That's powerful stuff. Could you imagine being a black woman, living your life as a white woman and married to Mr. Bellew? What type of life is that? What would he do if he found out you were really black?

Anyway, it's a very short read that gives us a glimpse into race relations in early 1900s and the lives blacks who passed as whites.

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