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Old 03-01-2018, 12:38 PM   #151
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orlok, did you read the Penguin edition with all the extra notes? I'm curious because I didn't and I would have said that you have "taken away from this book" more than was actually present in it*. As far as the story of Passing is concerned the part-Negroes appear to be living very comfortable and trouble-free lives (at least the ones we meet). Only Clare shows dissatisfaction related to race, and is something we only see at one remove. If it wasn't for a complete #$#$% of a husband, and the whole standing too close to open windows thing, Clare could easily (it seems) have satisfied her desire for more contact with other Negroes.

* This isn't any sort of criticism. There is nothing wrong or even unusual about taking away more than was put in, it is often the case that a book inspires further thought or reading beyond what it directly contains.
I haven't read the Penguin edition. I'm sure you're right that I've inferred more than was actually said - most of the impression I took away from the book comes from Clare's life, living the lie with a racist husband, but that's probably enough.
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Old 03-01-2018, 01:18 PM   #152
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I do think we're getting a bit mired down in the "did she/didn't she" ending. What I have taken away from this book is the difficult life that "white" people of colour had back then (and possibly still do) in integrating with either the white community (living a lie) or their own community (not always being accepted as one of their own). I think this informs Irene's and particularly Clare's neuroses and outlook on life, and explains many of their actions.
I did not get any sense of what passing was like in the 1920s from the book, not even specifically for Clare as a unique character. Any of the danger and difficulty seemed to be a result of her own deliberately risky behavior, not societal strictures. I did not feel her isolation from community and desire to return to her roots (in any case her roots were not in the upper-class world she turns to). I felt only that she was bored and looking for a change and an adventure, not that she was genuinely regretting or reexamining her choices and yearning for connection.

Were there any instances of Clare being ostracized or viewed with suspicion by anyone but Irene when she joins in the black community? I am not remembering anyone feeling ill will toward her because she was passing. Most of the characters seemed to exist on a social plane where they could cling to a pretense, for the most part, that race didn't much matter.
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Old 03-05-2018, 10:00 PM   #153
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On Irene, there was an interesting reference in the book to her wanting Brian to be happy, but in her way. It seemed she thought she knew best about every aspect of their lives, which must have put pressure on the relationship.

I think there are ambiguities all the way through, quite deliberately. Was Brian having an affair with Clare? Irene suspected it, but there was no proof. Did Irene push Clare because she feared that suspected relationship with her husband? And then there is the undercurrent of sexual ambiguity too, an attraction and tension between the two women.
Yes, I liked the way the author gradually reveals Irene's nature, until we are explicitly told near the end of the book that "to her, security was the most important and desired thing in life. Not for any of the others, or for all of them, would she exchange it. She wanted only to be tranquil. Only, unmolested, to be allowed to direct for their own best good the lives of her sons and her husband."

I also found the ambiguities to be a major charm of the book.

I was interested in the glimpse the book gave of an African-American bourgeoisie, making a space for itself in the Jazz Age. I was intrigued by some of the references, like Idlewild. I have been meaning to read Margo Jefferson's Negroland for a while now. I think I want to move that up in my reading queue.
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Old 03-06-2018, 12:15 AM   #154
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I have been meaning to read Margo Jefferson's Negroland for a while now. I think I want to move that up in my reading queue.
I considered nominating Negroland for this category and also mean to get to it soonish. I'm glad to have read Passing first; the discussion here has given a lot of context for it.
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Old 03-06-2018, 07:48 AM   #155
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It sounds very interesting indeed. And what's more, my local library has it!
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Old 03-07-2018, 08:00 PM   #156
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It sounds very interesting indeed. And what's more, my local library has it!
I'm in the queue for Negroland at the Ottawa Public Library. I'm hoping to have it by April or May.
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Old 03-07-2018, 08:02 PM   #157
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I considered nominating Negroland for this category and also mean to get to it soonish. I'm glad to have read Passing first; the discussion here has given a lot of context for it.
Yes, I think that what I got from Passing will enrich my reading of Negroland.
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Old 03-24-2018, 05:37 PM   #158
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The New York Times has been publishing a series of obituaries for notable women they overlooked at the time of death; today's is for Nella Larsen.
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Old 03-24-2018, 06:59 PM   #159
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Thanks very much for this, issybird. An interesting project.
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Old 03-25-2018, 01:18 AM   #160
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An interesting project, and an interesting obituary. Thanks.
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Old 03-26-2018, 09:12 PM   #161
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Thanks so much for posting the link, issybird. It gives a lot of context for Passing.

I recently read Negroland. Margo Jefferson describes in the setting of when she was actively considering suicide in the late 1970s, Nella Larsen's heroines drift towards death as a form of suicide by misadventure. One wonders if Larsen drifted into a social death by estrangement from her physical and intellectual families.
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Old 03-27-2018, 08:32 AM   #162
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That's an interesting thought bfisher. I thought it very sad that she seemed to be so isolated from everyone, to the point of her sister denying the relationship.
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Old 11-20-2018, 07:28 PM   #163
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Overdue podcast just did an episode about Passing which you might find interesting. They discuss the book, its context, Larsen and the Harlem Renaissance.
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Old 11-21-2018, 11:37 AM   #164
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Overdue podcast just did an episode about Passing which you might find interesting. They discuss the book, its context, Larsen and the Harlem Renaissance.
I assume this is coming up as there is a film adaptation in the works starring Tessa Thompson as Irene and the fabulous Ruth Negga as Clare.
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Old 11-21-2018, 08:35 PM   #165
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I assume this is coming up as there is a film adaptation in the works starring Tessa Thompson as Irene and the fabulous Ruth Negga as Clare.
Possibly. I subscribe to that podcast anyway. The format of the show is that they read classics or very popular novels*. That is one of the host reads it and then explains it to the other and they discuss it. I like it because it's a bit deeper discussion than simply someone saying whether they liked a book and why.

The movie sounds like it will be good.

(*the boilerplate spoiler warning at the start of each episode includes "...and anyway these are books you should have read by now")
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