by Nella Larsen
Introduction by Darryl Pinckney
Illustrated by Maggie Lily
Restless Classics presents an undersung gem of the Harlem Renaissance: Nella Larsen's Passing, a captivating and prescient exploration of identity, sexuality, belonging, self-invention, and race set amidst the pealing boisterousness of the Jazz Age.
List Price: $19.99 ISBN: 9781632062024 • Publication: 10/2/18 • 5.5" x 8.25" • 176 pages • Fiction: Classics / African American / Harlem Renaissance / Race Relations • Territory: World • eBook ISBN: 9781632062031
About the Book
When childhood friends Clare Kendry and Irene Redfield come across each other at a white-only restaurant, Irene learns her estranged friend has severed all ties to their African American community and is now married to a bigoted white man unaware of her heritage. Swinging between allure and repulsion, their revived relationship becomes a stage upon which questions of identity, sexuality, belonging, and self-invention play out.
Abrim with stifled desires, Nella Larsen’s searing portrait of these women’s inner cadences straddles the edges of things—communities, identities, races, and speech—and ultimately lands somewhere absolute and subversive: a place that defies categorization.
About Restless Classics
We all have “the list”: those classic books that we have the best intentions of reading, but which, after graduating from school, become less urgent priorities. We've set out to address this problem with Restless Classics—a series of beautifully packaged, newly introduced and illustrated great books from the past that still speak to our time, our place, and, especially, our restlessness. In addition to their original artwork and fresh introductions, each Restless Classic brings the classroom experience to the reader with linked online teaching videos.
Find out more at restlessbooks.com/classics.
Praise for Passing
“Nella Larsen didn’t just eschew tribes — she never had one to begin with…. Unsparing on the madness of racial classification but frank, and very beautiful, on the lure of racial belonging.”
“[Passing] is about changing definitions of concepts like race and gender, and the inextricable relationship between whiteness and blackness. It is a meditation on the uneasy dynamic between social obligation and personal freedom. It dramatizes the impossibility of self-invention in a society in which nuance and ambiguity are considered fatal threats to the social order.”
“I have read and re-read Passing more than a dozen times. Each time I think I can hear Larsen's own voice more clearly: asking, demanding really, that each of us abandon the labels we've been assigned and celebrate the story that we are.”
About the Author
Nella Larsen was born Nellie Walker in 1891 in Chicago. Her mother was a Danish immigrant and her father an immigrant from the Danish West Indies. Larsen attended school in all white environments in Chicago until she moved to Nashville to attend high school. Larsen later practiced nursing, and from 1922 to 1926, served as a librarian at the New York Public Library. After resigning from this position, Larsen began her literary career by writing her first novel, Quicksand (1928), which won her the Harmon Foundation’s bronze medal. After the publication of her second novel, Passing (1929), Larsen was awarded the first Guggenheim Fellowship given to an African American woman, establishing her as a premier novelist of the Harlem Renaissance. Nella Larsen died in New York in 1964.
About the Introducer
Darryl Pinckney, a longtime contributor to The New York Review of Books, is the author of two novels, Black Deutschland and High Cotton, and two works of nonfiction, Blackballed: The Black Vote and US Democracy and Out There: Mavericks of Black Literature. He has also collaborated with Robert Wilson on theater projects, most recently an adaption of Daniil Kharm’s The Old Woman. He lives in New York.
About the Illustrator
Maggie/Malachi Lily is a shapeshifting, black, nonbinary artist and moth from Philadelphia, PA. Seeking to combat our present day cravings for instant gratification and toxic individualism, they create works of art, literature, and programming that resonate spiritual light. They hope their work causes you to want to curl up in the sun and ponder, ideally with a cat.