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Quicksand & Passing by Nella Larsen

Quicksand & Passing by Nella Larsen

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Charlie recommends:

‘The two novels by the American writer Nella Larsen – Quicksand (1928) and Passing (1929) – are short works that explore complex themes. Like Larsen herself, the protagonists are mixed-race women who challenge contemporary attitudes not only to race but to class, gender and desire. Both books are small masterpieces that deserve to be better known.’

From the publisher:

Soon to be a major motion picture starring Tessa Thompson, Ruth Negga and Alexander Skarsgard.

A writer of the Harlem Renaissance, Nella Larsen wrote just two novels, published here, and a handful of short stories. Critically acclaimed, both speak powerfully of the contradictions and restrictions experienced by black women at that time.

Quicksand, written in 1928, is an autobiographical novel about Helga Crane, a mixed race woman caught between fulfilling her desires and gaining respectability in her middle class neighbourhood.

Written a year later, Passing tells the story of two childhood friends, Clare and Irene, both light skinned enough to pass as white. Reconnecting in adulthood, Clare has chosen to live as a white woman, while Irene embraces black culture and has an important role in her community.

Nella Larsen's novels are moving, characterful, and important books. She pioneered writing about the conflicts of sexuality, race and the secret suffering of women in the early twentieth century.