Episode 29: Passing by Nella Larsen

Nella Larsen

“Two women in 1920s New York discover how fluid and dangerous our perceptions of race can be in this electrifying classic of the Harlem Renaissance.”

“Nella Larsen (1891–1964) was the author of several short stories and two novels, Quicksand and Passing. She received a Guggenheim Fellowship to write a third novel in 1930 but, unable to find a publisher for it, she disappeared from the literary scene and worked as a nurse in New York City.”

Description and biography from Random House. 

The Spoilers welcome in the new year with a rollicking discussion of Nella Larsen’s Harlem Renaissance classic, Passing in this episode — and let me tell you they have some strong feelings about the characters in this book. As she does in the novel, the radiant Clare Kendry garners much of the attention, but we have plenty to say about Irene and her very complicated mind as well. We bravely tackle all things race and of course explore the intricacies of passing as well. Mostly we just do our best to answer Anita’s questions (which are fantastic as usual). We laugh, we cry and no one dies in this entertaining episode — perhaps there’s some misadventure, but only the good kind (disclaimer: no one even comes close to crying).  


Mentioned in the Episode

  • Hagar’s Daughter, Pauline Hopkins
  • Kaitlyn Greenidge (Anita mentions her a couple times as the author of the introduction in her edition of Passing — her book is We Love You Charlie Freeman)
  • Kevin Mumford, Interzones: Black/White Sex Districts in Chicago and New York in the Early Twentieth Centiry (Todd mentions the term)
  • Near Black: White to Black Passing in American Culture (Todd mentions this book and refers to a musician discussed in it named Johnny Otis)
  • Your Face in Mine, Jess Row
  • Film adaptation of Passinghttps://www.imdb.com/title/tt8893974/
  • Bodies That Matter, Judith Butler (Todd mentions a chapter from this book in which Butler argues that Bellow blows Clare out the window)

What the Spoilers are watching!

  • Adriana: In and of Itself (Hulu)
  • Crystal: Bridgerton (Netflix)
  • Todd: Lover’s Rock (Amazon)
  • Anita: The Mandalorian (Disney+)

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