Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Passing ” as Want to Read:
Passing
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Passing

3.79  ·  Rating Details  ·  10,139 Ratings  ·  660 Reviews
Clare Kendry, a beautiful light-skinned African American woman married to a white man who is unaware of her heritage, long ago cut all ties to her past, but a reunion with a childhood friend forces her to confront her lies.
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published November 28th 2000 by Modern Library (first published 1929)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Passing, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Mallory Though nothing is explicitly stated, there are presumed undertones of an affair and homosexuality. In regards to the former, it plays a large role in…moreThough nothing is explicitly stated, there are presumed undertones of an affair and homosexuality. In regards to the former, it plays a large role in the second half of the book, but no one is 'caught' and no information is given.(less)
Animal Farm by George OrwellOf Mice and Men by John SteinbeckThe Old Man and the Sea by Ernest HemingwayThe Metamorphosis by Franz KafkaThe Stranger by Albert Camus
World's Greatest Novellas
175th out of 442 books — 1,047 voters
The Color Purple by Alice WalkerI Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya AngelouBeloved by Toni MorrisonInvisible Man by Ralph EllisonThe Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X
Black History Month
199th out of 396 books — 375 voters


More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Elijah Kinch Spector
[Cross-posted on my blog, and accompanied by pretty much the best author photo I've ever seen.]

First of all, please, for God's sake, if you're thinking of reading The Help, just fucking stop yourself and read something that's about the actual effects of real racism on real people, and not engineered to make white people feel good about themselves. In Passing, even many of the most enlightened folks carry some bigotry around, and the most horribly racist character is still, terrifyingly enough, a
...more
Samadrita
Huzzah for neat seguing of plot pulse and theme! This one proves to be a much better outing than Quicksand because it relies on dialogue and interactions between characters to gradually disclose its cleverly withheld secrets. Till the very end Larsen successfully kept me guessing at the hidden fears, ambitions and motivations that drive Irene Redfield and Clare Kendry - two light-skinned black women who subscribe to different forms of morally ambiguous survivalist ideology to counter the omnipre ...more
Dem
Apr 12, 2015 Dem rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Passing is a novel by American author Nella Larsen. Published in 1929 and set in 1920s Harlem, New York City. The plot centers on the meeting of two childhood friends of mixed-race African-American ancestry.
Clare Kendry and Irene Redfiel are friends from old and a chance meeting sees them rekindle a forgotten friendship. The title ( Passing) and central theme of the novel refer to the practice of racial "passing"; Clare Kendry's passing as white with her white husband, Jack Bellew, is feature
...more
Aubrey
4.5/5

My rating of this book has been compromised by my extremely recent previous reading of Larsen's magnificent Quicksand, it's true. Take it as one of those times where the scale depends solely on the capabilities of the sole author herself, rather than being one carefully calibrated across all of whom I've read. If the latter were the case, I would have to downgrade a great deal of other works read previously to this; as I have neither the time nor inclination for such things, simply take my
...more
Zanna
Judging by the fact that this book has an introduction by the awesome Ntozake Shange, extensive notes and a detailed critical foreward by Mae Henderson loaded with references to related books and other critics who have written on Larsen, and that Bitch magazine devoted a feature to the book in their early 2015 issue, Passing has only become, if anything, increasingly relevant over the decades since its publication in 1929. The explanatory power of the concept of 'passing' has been utilised to ma ...more
Josh
Aug 31, 2015 Josh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
(4.0) I've had to cogitate on this for a while to see if I could come up with something to encompass my feelings on this book. Comparatively speaking, coming from a man of Caucasian descent in America, could I truly know what it felt like to be someone of color at this time? At any time? With that said, I must say…

Passing. Now that’s a term, in its current context, I wasn't familiar with. The fact that people literally had to pass as another race to be accepted is beyond me, but the color of one
...more
Hadrian
She was caught between two allegiances, different, yet the same. Herself. Her race. Race! The thing that bound and suffocated her. Whatever steps she took, or if she took none at all, something would be crushed. A person or the race. Clare, herself, or the race. Or, it might be, all three. Nothing, she imagined, was ever more completely sardonic.

Passing, in my reading, is a book on identity. First those identities which are public, which we perform and act out. Then those identities which we ign
...more
Chrissie
Dec 11, 2015 Chrissie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was very good! It grabs your attention. It keeps you guessing from the first page to the last. It gives interesting perspectives on the concept of "passing" as a White. Great dialogs. No, more than great, exceptional! It moves quickly, and when it ends it leaves you thinking. This is a classic that is worth reading. It says a lot in a few words. It packs a punch.

Excellent audiobook narration by Robin Miles.

There is an exception to every rule. This was short and I liked it a lot.
Mary
May 13, 2016 Mary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 2016
Passing for straight.
Passing for married.
Mostly, passing for happy.

And passing for white. Whatever white is.
Nathan
4.5/5
When James Baldwin said that: "The idea of racial progress in America is measured by how fast I become white", he hit upon the issue at the core of Passing; the narrative focuses on two women trying their damnedest to ignore the ways they are mistreated because they are black. Clare insists on passing for white, and it sends her identity into limbo. To her, the price of being black is poverty, limited options and an unfulfilled life, and the price of passing is self loathing, alienation, an
...more
Alex
I've been fooled twice now into thinking Nella Larsen isn't a great writer. She is. She controls her story perfectly; she gives you exactly the information you need at exactly the right time. Her stories are carefully constructed, each one building steadily towards a wallop. They make a huge impact. There's no fat, nothing that doesn't exactly need to be there.

There's a six-floor walkup in one scene of Passing; the characters complain about it, and one makes a racial comment about it. It's ther
...more
Pamela
Nov 25, 2010 Pamela rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
Recommended to Pamela by: Roberta Johnson
"Passing" by Nella Larsen was a very poignant and powerful read. It explores the concept of passing which is basically pretending to be someone you're not for your own personal, selfish gain. Ms. Larsen's achieves this through her two main characters, both African-American women, Irene and Clare.
Irene was born African-American, and she grows up to marry a successful African-American doctor. As a result, she chooses to stay within the African-American community, and she only "passes" when it's co
...more
Ebtihal Abuali
هذه واحدة من نوعية القصص التي لا يحدث فيها شيء تقريبا. انها تنمو وتكشف فكرتها من خلال الحوارات وتطور اتجاه العلاقات بين الشخصيات القليلة التي لا تكف عن اللقاء لشرب الشاي او الذهاب للحفلات، وهو نمط من السرد متكرر بين ما قرأت في الادب الامريكي وعلى الارجح يقول شيئا عن عادات المجتمع في ذلك الوقت (اوائل القرن العشرين). الموضوع جديد بالنسبة لي: الزنوج ذوي البشرة البيضاء الذين يحاولون "العبور" الى الضفة الاخرى والعيش كبيض.

ومن خلال هذه الاحاديث نعرف ماضي كلير التي عبرت في وقت ما، تزوجت بأبيض وعاشت بعيد
...more
*nawaf
Jan 15, 2016 *nawaf rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
من المهم في هذه الرواية قراءة مقدمتها قبل البدء بها، والتي كتبها المترجم علي المجنوني لأنها توضح الحقبة الزمنية والأوضاع التي رافقت كتابة الرواية ، إذ أنها كُتبت في نهاية عشرينيات القرن الماضي ، في عصر كلن يسوده التفريق العنصري بناءً على اللون واختلاط الأعراق والألوان.
لن تتركز الرواية حول قضية معينة يجعلها تأتي في قالب مركز فالأحداث قليلة والزمن قصير نسبيًا ، حيث تدور الرواية حول آيرين ردفيلد وصديقتها كلير كندري وهم ضمن الفئة المولودة من زواج مختلط ولكنها اكتسبت البشرة البيضاء وملامحهم وما يعان
...more
Abeer Saleh
"العبور" هو انتماء فرد من عرق ما, لعرق آخر يفوقه في الامتيازات, وفي الحالة الأميركية فالعبور غالبًا يعني انتماء الفرد الأسود ذا البشرة الفاتحة (نتيجة التزاوج بين الطبقتين), لطبقة البيض ذات الامتيازات الكثيرة, و غالبًا لا يحكم على الشخص إلا بلون بشرته.

هنا, تحاول نيلا أن تتناول مسألة "العبور" التي لايعرف بالضبط عدد أفرادها على مر السنوات, وتسقطها على شخصياتها, الانتماء لمن لا يشبهك, فقط لتحيا حياة كريمة, تحصل فيها على أبسط الحقوق التي حرم منها من هم في مثل وضعك أو في وضع قريب منك, وبطبيعة الحال, م
...more
Bloodorange
Jul 10, 2015 Bloodorange rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: us, modernism, audiobooks
A short novel about a concept so alien today to the white, non-American community that it's absolutely worth reading for its subject matter. It is a tad poetic, but not too much so; abruptly ending, but providing, to my mind, a sufficient sense of closure; the dialogues are fine, the situations feel realistic; the only thing I felt dissatisfied with were the characters.

The perceptiveness of Irene, the protagonist, her insecurities, her perception of herself as mother and wife make her very easy
...more
Fahad
Feb 15, 2016 Fahad rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
زنج

تكتب نيلا لارسن وبتركيز شديد - يفسد الكتاب برأيي - عن موضوعة (العبور) – أفضل مفردة التسلل -، أي انتقال أفراد من زواجات مختلطة (بيض وزنوج) للعيش في مجتمعات بيضاء، تحت ستار لونهم الأبيض، ومن دون الاعتراف أبداً بأصولهم ودمائهم السوداء، أو كما سماها فيليب روث (وصمتهم البشرية)، وفيليب روث برأيي من أفضل من تطرقوا لهذا الموضوع في رائعته (الوصمة البشرية)، والتي يعرض فيها ساخراً حالة دكتور جامعي عابر ينتهي متهماً بالعنصرية ضد السود، يا للسخرية!! نيلا لارسن هنا تجعل الموضوعة هاجساً لأبطالها، فالبطلة ع
...more
طاهر الزهراني
لا بد أن أعترف أني اقتنيت هذه الرواية لأنها أول عمل مترجم لمترجمها، فكان هدفي الترجمة أكثر من مضمون الرواية، لكن بمجرد أن بدأت الرواية انسقت لحدثها الذي ولج بي إلى أجواء ومشاعر إنسانية لم نعهدها في عمل تحدث عن مسألة العرق، وربما هذا الانسياق بشغف نحو أحداث الرواية هو دليل حسن الترجمة.
الرواية كلاسيكية في تقتياتها، وسردها، لكن الموضوع الذي يدور حول مفهوم العبور هو ما جعل للرواية أهميتها، وهذا المفهوم الذي يتحدث عن حالة إنسانية ستبقى ببقاء الانسان، هو ما سيجعل هذه الرواية تخلد، وهو ما جعل هذه الروا
...more
Tiffany Reisz
Jul 21, 2015 Tiffany Reisz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Supposedly a book with the theme of racial "passing" is dated according to one critic. Seems more timely than ever after the Rachel Dolezeal scandal. Dated or not, the book was a beautifully written page-turner. Lots of passing going on. Are gay people passing for straight? An unhappy couple passing for happy? A bad wife passing for good? A fascinating look at the Harlem of the 1920s. Discussions of race more poignant than ever.
Samantha
Jan 15, 2009 Samantha rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I must admit that Nella Larson completes a fantastic feat in only 114 pages.

This book makes you think: about race, race relations, and one's own anxieties about "the other". It makes you question your own sense of self, what it means to be, to identify with something, anything really. What does it mean to be authentic? To be an individual? To be part of a group? To be a human being? To have a color of any type, and to accept it, or reject it. What does it all mean?

I was reading the Times this m
...more
Donna
This was a compelling psychological story delving into racial identity, and the sacrifices and perils facing a person denying her heritage to gain an advantage. As Irene, a main character in the story, said of that person, "The trouble with Clare was, not only that she wanted to have her cake and eat it too, but that she wanted to nibble at the cakes of other folk as well."

This book was filled with many grey areas, ethically and otherwise, that truly made me think about what elements define a p
...more
Rosemary
Dec 27, 2015 Rosemary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-books
Light-skinned Irene Redfield meets an old childhood friend who is now "passing" as white. Clare is married to a racist white man who has no idea she has any African American ancestry. Despite the danger, she gravitates back into Irene's social circle, unable to stay away.

I found this much more accomplished than her first novel Quicksand. The characters were more compelling (both Irene and Clare) and I cared what happened here.
Beth Bonini
Apr 24, 2016 Beth Bonini rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical, classic, 1920s
I don't think this novella is as strong as Larsen's other work, Quicksand, but it is a fascinating glimpse into the "intelligentsia" of 1920s Harlem. It's hardly more than a short story in length, but Larsen manages to create a memorable portrait of race and feminine psychology.

The childhood friendship between Irene Redfield and Clare Kendry is revived when the two women meet accidentally in a Chicago hotel. Irene, a light-skinned black woman, is 'passing' just for convenience; Clare, whose rac
...more
Lori
Jun 29, 2013 Lori rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Passing by Nella Larsen is a must read for everyone. It takes place during the Harlem Renaissance. Clare and Irene are childhood friends who lose touch when Clare moves away after her father dies. She is sent to live with her white aunts, who decide Clare is to be white. Clare hides her part black identity, and “passes” as a white woman who eventually marries a white racist. Irene lives in Harlem, marries a black doctor, and commits herself to her race. These two women meet later in life and eac ...more
Rosa
This book said so much in so few words. It obviously deals with race issues, but oh so much more-- class issues, identity crisis, marriage infidelity, possibly lesbianism between the two main characters--their relationship, especially in the beginning is subtle, yet intense. I would consider this more of a novella. It was over way too soon & left me wanting to read more of Larsen's writing. Unfortunately, there's not much to read. I know of one other piece by her - Quicksand, and a few short ...more
Steven Hopkins
This book isn't all that much fun to read, but it asks a lot of questions. It is about a black woman that passes as a white person, even her husband doesn't know. She has to live a life of fear and lies.
How many of us "pass" and live a different life than who we really are? What do we sacrifice to appear as someone else?
Sarah
Dec 27, 2014 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A quietly lovely book that builds and builds in intensity. This is exquisitely crafted.
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
This is a book about a blonde woman trying to hide the fact that she is Actually Black, while meanwhile trying to connect with her African-American heritage, and everyone around her (black and white) taking this situation completely seriously and trying to help her hide the fact that she is Totally Black from her racist husband, who has no clue (and also is less Aryan-looking than she, but Totally White nonetheless). Thank you, literature, for reminding us that the real world can be as weird as ...more
Wendy
Apr 18, 2016 Wendy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a tight, efficient little novel. Everything felt balanced: the emotional drama, the action, the pacing. The occasional descriptions, like the rooftop view of Chicago, or Clare in her fancy dress, punched up the prose but never dragged. The story itself concerns the fraught racial politics of urban '20s Chicago and Harlem, where a "drop of colored blood" renders one "colored", and where "passing" as white could be seen as convenient, ambitious, or a betrayal to one's own kith and kin. No ...more
Ali
Apr 14, 2015 Ali rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Passing was chosen by my second book group (a lovely new feminist group) for our most recent read, we discuss it on Wednesday evening. It was my suggestion – because I already had the book and it seemed it would make a great book for discussion. In 2014 Serpent’s Tail produced an attractive edition of Nella Larsen’s two short novels, Quicksand and Passing in one volume. These two novels (novellas actually might be nearer the mark) are the only ones Nella Larsen wrote, however, despite this, Lars ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
500 Great Books B...: Passing - Nella Larsen 4 35 Feb 03, 2015 10:58AM  
Librivox version 2 15 Jan 25, 2014 01:49PM  
23 Short Classics: Passing 5 16 Jan 25, 2014 06:51AM  
23 Short Classics: January Book - Passing by Nella Larson 4 14 Jan 09, 2014 04:17PM  
  • Plum Bun: A Novel without a Moral
  • The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man
  • Black No More
  • Clotel: or, The President's Daughter
  • The Marrow of Tradition
  • Cane
  • The Blacker the Berry...
  • Corregidora
  • The Street
  • Lucy
  • Maud Martha
  • The New Negro
  • The Life and Death of Harriett Frean
  • Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination
  • Brown Girl, Brownstones
  • The Portable Harlem Renaissance Reader
  • Caucasia
  • Erasure
7894
Nellallitea 'Nella' Larsen (first called Nellie Walker) was an American novelist of the Harlem Renaissance who wrote two novels and a few short stories. Though her literary output was scant, what she wrote earned her recognition by her contemporaries and by present-day critics.
More about Nella Larsen...

Share This Book



“The trouble with Clare was, not only that she wanted to have her cake and eat it too, but that she wanted to nibble at the cakes of other folk as well.” 16 likes
“It hurt. It hurt like hell. But it didn’t matter, if no one knew.” 7 likes
More quotes…