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Quicksand (Modern Library Torchbearers)

A classic novel of identity, sexuality, religion, and race by the author of Passing, hailed as “an original and hugely insightful writer” by The New York Times—with an introduction by Asali Solomon, author of The Days of Afrekete “Quicksand . . . open[s] up a whole world of experience and struggle that seemed to me, when I first read [it] years ago, absolutely absorbing, fascinating, and indispensable.”—Alice Walker Born to a white Danish mother and a Black American father, Helga Crane has long struggled to carve a path for herself amid the racial segregation of the early twentieth century. As a teacher at an all-Black boarding school in the South, Helga quickly becomes unsettled by the way the school measures excellence based on proximity to whiteness. Journeying to Chicago, Harlem, and Copenhagen, she attempts to thrive free from the constraints of category—mother or wife, promiscuous or chaste, white or Black, American or Danish. But these categories, though slippery and unstable, are constantly reinforced. Helga finally settles into a life that feels secure yet completely at odds with her previous ambitions—married to a preacher in the Deep South, hoping to find peace under the wings of the Church. Landing back where she started, in social and existential oblivion, Helga forces us to consider: In a society marred by injustice, is it even possible to find a true, authentic self? With intriguing parallels to Larsen’s own life, Quicksand is an engrossing page-turner that is as relevant now as ever before. The Modern Library Torchbearers series features women who wrote on their own terms, with boldness, creativity, and a spirit of resistance.

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