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Passing (English Edition) Kindle-editie
|Nieuw vanaf||Tweedehands vanaf|
|Kindle-editie, 15 jul 2013||
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The story is narrated by Irene Redfield, a light-skinned black woman. She is married to a black physician and they have two sons. She is living in Harlem with her family but grew up in Chicago. During a trip home, she meets a childhood friend named Clare Bellew. Clare is also light-skinned but has decided to “go native,” living her life as a white woman. She is married to a wealthy white man who is an overt racist. He has no idea that his wife and their young daughter are black. Clare insinuates herself into Irene’s life and even comes to New York City for an extended stay. Irene is both fascinated and repelled by Clare. The book examines each woman’s approach to passing for white. Irene, who is insecure, seems to envy Clare’s confidence and also resent it. She also fears that Clare has made a dangerous mistake by lying to her husband about her heritage. There are several tense moments in the book when Irene has the opportunity to out Clare. She always chooses to keep her secret. Irene’s internal struggle between being proud of her heritage and protecting her friend is painfully drawn out to a horrible conclusion.
Though the book is short, as are the sentences and paragraphs, it packs a big punch. You can read this quickly, but the book is better when you savor the words and think about the implications. To me, the novel is about mixed feelings and blurred lines. You can feel Irene’s ambivalence. The author does not provide any “right” answers and the book ends with even more questions. Some literary critics suggest that there is a lesbian element to the relationship between Irene and Clare. I wondered about that myself, but that is not a central part of the book in my opinion. Passing was not a part of my college reading list, but I am so glad that I found it.
The prose of this book is excessively formal and stilted. I only very rarely read fiction books, and so I'm not sure to whom to compare this book. It puts me in mind of Joseph Conrad, only less discursive.
The black people in this book are not the ones that I know, and that does make sense since the character of black cities changed dramatically after the Great Migration from the South.
Also, this book took place nearly 100 years ago. I don't think anybody at that time could ever have conceived of people like Kim Kardashian. (Or, any of the Kardashians, for that matter).
I don't know if there was this extreme delineation between races, but even if it was so then it's not particularly relevant to what exists today. And it's especially irrelevant given that some historical background is necessary so that the allusions in this book are not missed.
It's not that all black people were poor and all white people were rich, and you could become one or the other simply by changing your racial identity.
Verdict: "Pass" on this one.