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Passing by Nella Larsen
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Passing by Nella Larsen


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The powerful, thrilling, and tragic tale about the fluidity of racial identity that continues to resonate today, with an introduction by Emily Bernard.

A Penguin Vitae Edition


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. First published in 1929, Passing feels just as timely as ever today.

Penguin Classics launches a new hardcover series with five American classics that are relevant and timeless in their power, and part of a dynamic and diverse landscape of classic fiction and nonfiction from almost seventy-five years of classics publishing. Penguin Vitae provides readers with beautifully designed classics that have shaped the course of their lives, and welcomes new readers to discover these literary gifts of personal inspiration, intellectual engagement, and creative originality.