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Plum Bun: A Novel without a Moral

3.86  ·  Rating Details  ·  624 Ratings  ·  49 Reviews
Written in 1929 at the height of the Harlem Renaissance by one of the movement's most important and prolific authors, Plum Bun is the story of Angela Murray, a young black girl who discovers she can pass for white. After the death of her parents, Angela moves to New York to escape the racism she believes is her only obstacle to opportunity. What she soon discovers is that ...more
Paperback, 408 pages
Published December 15th 1999 by Beacon Press (first published 1928)
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Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale HurstonNative Son by Richard WrightThe Collected Poems by Langston HughesThe Ways of White Folks by Langston HughesPassing by Nella Larsen
The Harlem Renaissance
31st out of 113 books — 35 voters
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,877)
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Ari
Jan 04, 2015 Ari rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2013
IQ "I don't mind a man's not marrying me; but I can't forgive him if he thinks I'm not good enough to marry him. [...]It's wrong for men to have both money and power; they're bound to make some woman suffer" Paulette, 128

Obviously this novel was going to discuss race and the emotional as well logistical complexities of a Black person passing for white but I was also pleased that it touched on male privilege and sexism. It also has very independent female characters who have *gasp* casual sex and
...more
Jennifer Lauren Collins
Written at the height of the Harlem Renaissance, this is one of those novels that isn't nearly as widely read as it should be. Fauset's novel is so readable as to often seem casual, but the heart of the story is a detailing of psychology related to racism, sexism, and the question/process of "passing". By focusing on a young African American girl who wants nothing more than to be a free woman and artist, Fauset tracks her young protragonist through Philadelphia and then New York with a constant ...more
Deidre Valentine
Sep 18, 2011 Deidre Valentine rated it really liked it
1929. The Harlem Renaissance: the high-swinging days of Langston Hughes, Richard Wright and Zora Neale Hurston. These names produced some of the most recognizable and justifiable literature in the 20th century. Stories of jazz, sexuality and freedom bloomed from the minds of these poets and novelists.

In a time when ideas pollinized the cities’ streets, very few names could be spotted on the radar and could be etched into time. Writers like Jessie Redmon Fauset published their works and passed on
...more
Paige
Mar 10, 2015 Paige rated it really liked it
This novel was published almost 90 years ago, and as such the language and writing style took a bit of getting used to for me. At first I was like, “I’ll try to make it through 50 pages a day…” but actually, once I got into it (by the end of the first section), I was hooked and I gobbled it up in two days.

I really like the story in this book, and even though the ending seems (view spoiler), I thought it was all really
...more
Michelle Boyer
I've been on the verge about whether or not this book should get a 3 or a 4 --so I've decided it is a 3.5 and I'll be lenient and give it a 4-star rating here on GoodReads.

Let me explain--

The novel is about a young woman named Angela, who, during the Harlem Renaissance, decides that living her life has become all too complicated because of race. Therefore, she decides that she is going to try "passing" and moves to New York. As one might predict, she still faces trouble and turmoil in New York
...more
Seward Park Branch Library, NYPL
Jun 15, 2015 Seward Park Branch Library, NYPL rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult-picks
'Now be practical, [Virginia]; after all, I am both white and Negro and look white. Why shouldn't I declare for the one that brings me the greatest happiness, prosperity, and respect?'

The primary concern of Jessie Redmon Fauset's 'Plum Bun' rests on this very question.

This novel has an irresistible charm—its character's are affable and its story lovable. In this 'novel without a moral' we follow Angela Murray as she comes of age in a systematically racist America as she lives on both sides of th
...more
Andrew Fairweather
Mar 08, 2015 Andrew Fairweather rated it really liked it
'Now be practical, [Virginia]; after all, I am both white and Negro and look white. Why shouldn't I declare for the one that brings me the greatest happiness, prosperity, and respect?'

The primary concern of Jessie Redmon Fauset's 'Plum Bun' rests on this very question.

This novel has an irresistible charm—its character's are affable and its story lovable. In this 'novel without a moral' we follow Angela Murray as she comes of age in a systematically racist America as she lives on both sides of th
...more
Domonique
Just ok

It took me a while to get into this book, it was slow going for a while. Forgetting about the countless punctuation and grammatical errors, of which there were a lot, it wasn't all that interesting. I had to make myself keep reading in the hopes that it would get better and it did pick up about half through, but still didn't really grab me. The idea was good, but not the execution.
Christopher Sutch
Nov 01, 2014 Christopher Sutch rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderful, rich, complex and mature novel from one of our great Harlem Renaissance writers. Fauset explores an unorthodox structure in which she very ably builds up the characterization of her protagonist, Angela, an African-American woman who chooses to "pass" for white in order to avoid the hardships of racism and other issues in 1920s America. Fauset's plotting is superb, and the novel is almost Jamesian in the play of social structures, psychological and interpersonal conflicts, an ...more
Aki
Mar 06, 2015 Aki rated it it was amazing
This book brought me a completely new perspective on white colored people's lives around the 20s. At first, I found Fauset's writing very simple and dry but as I read on, found out how simply but very precisely she depicts the psychological shifts of the protagonist, Angela. Through her sufferings caused by racism, gender and financial status, she gradually discovers the core of her problem - loneliness. And this loneliness she cannot overcome wherever she lives - in New York, Paris or even her ...more
Carmen Slaughter
Jul 22, 2014 Carmen Slaughter rated it it was amazing
Wow. That is all.
Tony
Nov 10, 2011 Tony rated it really liked it
PLUM BUN: A Novel Without A Moral. (1928). Jessie Redmon Fauset. ****.
This was a novel included in the Library of America’s, “Harlem Renaissance: Five Novels of the 1920s.” It is the story of Angela, the older daughter of Junius and Mattie Murray. Angela’s younger sister was Virginia. This was a colored family, but Mattie and Angela could – and did – pass for white. Mattie and Angela would frequently go out together and visit the “white” stores and places of entertainment in downtown Philadelph
...more
Rebecca Reid
Feb 07, 2012 Rebecca Reid rated it really liked it
Shelves: b-fic-modern
In Jessie Redmon Fauset’s second published novel, Plum Bun: A Novel without a Moral (published 1928), one woman struggles to finding her own identity racially and sexually in New York City during the vibrant years of the Harlem Renaissance.

Artist Angela Murray is a light-skinned “coloured” woman in the transitional years of the late 1910s and 1920s. When she gets an opportunity, she leaves her home town in Philadelphia for a life of “passing” as a white person in New York City. The novel follows
...more
Leslie
Feb 22, 2016 Leslie rated it it was amazing
Read for my Harlem Renaissance class. The marriage plot gets a little blah toward the end, but everything else about this book is so interesting - plot focused on a woman who is passing in NYC in the 1920s/30s, and the complications this creates for her romantic and familial relationships, also while trying to make it as a young artist. Fascinating!
Ashley Teagle
This was a pretty good Harlem Renaissance novel. It's all about Angela, who decides to pass for white and leaves her home to find her fortune in New York.

Of course things don't work out the way Angela thinks they should, which is part of the fun. This book would be a great book club selection because there is plenty to pick apart in this novel.
Terry
Sep 07, 2014 Terry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
And yet another masterpiece from the Library of America’s Harlem Renaissance series! While truly a story about race (the main character leaves friends and family behind to “pass” as white in NYC,) other issues emerge, like class and gender. At times a bit of a soap opera, a fascinating read!
Patricia
Feb 15, 2016 Patricia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I haven't read a book that touched me so deeply in a long time. I regret not posting the many passages that are still, sadly, so relevant nearly 100 years later. Some people were disappointed with the quick ending but I thought it was like the classic, happy, and romantic ending to a black and white film. Perfect book in every way.
Carrie Anne
Apr 03, 2014 Carrie Anne rated it really liked it
I had been looking for this story, one of independence and the hard questions and eventual happiness, for a while. Well-written, and easily digestible.
Sara
Mar 02, 2014 Sara rated it it was amazing

A cliche ending can be refreshing. I loved her writing. The numerous ideas and matters she presented thoroughly and with such beautiful style.
Mick
Nov 22, 2009 Mick rated it it was amazing
This novel, part of the late 19th/early 20th century's literary treatment of racial passing, is not just that. Fauset raises questions about both racial and gender identity that she never really answers, and seems to posit that these questions are much more complicated than they are usually portrayed. The novel is beautifully written, and Angela's drive to belong in one society or another is both heart-breaking and redemptive. I put this text down asking myself a lot of questions about identity ...more
Monica
Overly erudite. Corny ending. Nothing much really happens in the book. In short, I enjoyed it!! An anthropological treasure. Its like a time capsule with this young, black, female author struggling for attention and respect both as a woman and as a negro. I am not describing the plot of the book, I'm stating my perception of how the author came across to me in the telling of the story. The story itself was not that complex. A coming of age story of a young woman in the 1920s who attempted to pas ...more
Kit
Mar 22, 2014 Kit rated it it was amazing
Shelves: recentlyread
Really a terrific novel which should be much better known than it is. There should be a Penguin Classic edition or something.
Celestasaurus
Jan 05, 2012 Celestasaurus rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult, read-in-school
Great book! At the beginning of the novel, it appears to have a very thick moral theme, but as the plot evolves, it focuses more on the struggles of identity Angela faces (hence the title). It is also a novel about secrets, dual identities, and convoluted relationships. And the set up of the novel is brilliant! It is narrated in sections, each one a line from the poem "Plum Bun," which in an abstract way reflects her life at the moment. The ending will have every reader holding their breath for ...more
Ann Canann
Feb 29, 2016 Ann Canann rated it liked it
I k
new Fauset as an important figure in the Harlan Renaissance and was glad for the experience of reading her fiction, but the entertainment factor was low.
Elizabeth  Higginbotham
Read this years ago. Many insights into living during this era.
Lily Morgan
Sep 06, 2015 Lily Morgan rated it it was amazing
Superb. Splendid from beginning to end. Should be much better known than it is.
Josh
Oct 12, 2014 Josh rated it really liked it
Shelves: female-authors, ebook
If you've read Nella Larsen's book "Passing" then think of this as a more rounded, vivid experience. I love Larsen but Fauset's book has the advantage of looking through the eyes of the "passer."
principalaim
Feb 08, 2014 principalaim rated it it was amazing
Shelves: essentials
Great novel about difficult topic.
Toni
Jul 27, 2011 Toni rated it really liked it
One of the most amazing novels I have ever read. Full of issues that concern identity, lies and passion of women. Such an awesome insight into the life of 1920s and 1930s Harlem and New York life for African American women. Especially that of African American women that were passing and African American women that could not and how they ineract with each other. An amazing story of love and lies between friends, family and lovers. A fantastic book written by a fantastic author.
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Jessie Redmon Fauset was an American editor, poet, essayist and novelist.

Fauset was born in Fredericksville, an all-black hamlet in Camden County, New Jersey, also known as Free Haven (now incorporated into the borough of Lawnside, New Jersey). She was the daughter of Anna "Annie" Seamon and Redmon Fauset, a Presbyterian minister. Her mother died when she was still a young girl. Her father remarri
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“We've all of us got to make up our minds to the sacrifice of some thing. I mean something more than just the ordinary sacrifices in life, not so much for the sake of the next generation as for the sake of some principle, for the sake of some immaterial quality like pride or intense self-respect or even a saving complacency; a spiritual tonic which the race needs perhaps just as much as the body might need iron or whatever it does need to give the proper kind of resistance. There are some things which an individual might want, but which he'd just have to give up forever for the sake of the more important whole.” 2 likes
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