Passing by Nella Larsen is a classic novel following Irene Redfield and Clare Bellew. The novel follows the timeline of the Harlem Renaissance and delves into themes of 'white-passing' amongst the black community.
Irene, the narrator of the novel considers herself to be a very levelheaded, calm, thoughtful woman, who looks out for her children and is a perfectly attentive wife. Clare Bellew on the other hand is Irene's childhood friend, and her personality is much more colorful than Irene's. When Irene and Clare reunite after many years, we delve into their complicated relationship and clashing personalities.
Passing is a novel that illustrates what the standards of beauty really are and educates readers on the logistics of what passing of as white can mean for a black woman back in the 1920s.
I really enjoyed reading this novel, as 'white-passing' was something I wasn't super aware of, and barely even knew it was a phenomenon in the 1900s. Larsen also created a very interesting dynamic between Irene and Clare and crafted very realistic characters. I enjoyed reading Irene's inner monologues, as it's pretty rare to see an author build up very dynamic characters, that are also painfully human. I would recommend this book to pretty much anyone, as it contained lots of powerful messages and themes, without coming off as cliche or overdone.
Reviewer Grade: 11