A light-skinned beauty who spends years passing for white finds herself dangerously drawn to an old friend’s Harlem neighborhood. A restless young mulatto tries desperately to find a comfortable place in a world in which she sees herself as a perpetual outsider. A mother’s confrontation with tragedy tests her loyalty to her race.
The gifted Harlem Renaissance writer Nella Larsen wrote compelling dramas about the black middle class that featured sensitive, spirited heroines struggling to find a place where they belonged. Passing, Larsen’s best-known work, is a disturbing story about the unraveling lives of two childhood friends, one of whom turns her back on her past and marries a white bigot. Just as disquieting is the portrait in Quicksand of Helga Crane, half black and half white, who can’t escape her loneliness no matter where and with whom she lives. Race and marriage offer few securities her or in the other stories in a collection that is compellingly readable, rich in psychological complexity, and imbued with a sense of place that brings Harlem vibrantly to life.
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