Group Read, August 2020: Passing

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Group Read, August 2020: Passing

1puckers
Ago 1, 2020, 4:11pm

Our August group read is Passing by Nella Larsen. Please join in the read and post any comments you have on this thread.

2japaul22
Ago 2, 2020, 9:02am

I will be reading this and will probably start in a few days. I read Quicksand recently and loved it so I’m looking forward to this.

3Majel-Susan
Ago 3, 2020, 8:32am

I just started on Saturday, and I'm still on Part 1!

4japaul22
Ago 5, 2020, 4:50pm

Starting today - anyone else?

5annamorphic
Ago 5, 2020, 8:47pm

I’m reading the introduction now.

6japaul22
Ago 5, 2020, 9:34pm

It is very short, I read the first half this evening.

Definitely some topics to discuss once most/all of us finish.

7annamorphic
Ago 11, 2020, 6:51am

So this was an interesting book. I loved the first half -- it felt so subtle and intense. The second half was a lot less satisfying somehow. I just didn't buy Irene's jealousy about her husband. Was everything in her imagination? Why would she imagine this? What does that tell us about her relationship with Clare, and about Clare's relationship with race?

Another thing I found interesting was the way Clare talks about herself, and how Irene believes her self-assessments without looking underneath them. Clare seems so unhappy, in ways Irene doesn't perceive. I mean, she sees the problems in Clare's life, but not what they've done to her.

No spoilers here, but the ending was both over-anticipated and very shocking.

8japaul22
Ago 11, 2020, 9:48am

I found this book interesting and hard to wrap my brain around at the same time. I had heard of "passing", but never really thought about it that deeply, admittedly because my racial heritage is white. It's so strange to think about this idea of one small part of your heritage being Black meaning that you were completely Black and that it mattered so deeply to so many people. At this point, a hundred years later, I know I see so many people for whom I don't know or care what their racial background is. We have many more mixed race and heritage people now which I think is a good thing, though some might mourn the loss of some of the deep culture that goes along with a single heritage, whatever that might be. I think we see some of that with Clare. She passes as white and then later in life misses the connection with her Black community. So while passing might not be very relevant today, this idea of being a part of a community and how you are admitted to it is likely always going to be relevant to the human experience.

9Majel-Susan
Ago 18, 2020, 4:13pm

>7 annamorphic: I was also a little puzzled about Irene's suspicions, and I couldn't decide whether I was supposed to trust Irene's "woman's intuition" on this or whether Irene was simply becoming paranoid with her jealousy. Irene did, after all, admire and despise Clare all at one go, and in a similar vein, I do believe that she envied her, too.

While Irene took measures to protect Clare from being found out by her husband, I felt that, ultimately, it was between what mattered to her on a personal level and the loyalty she felt towards her race. In that sense, she was faced with a conflict not entirely unlike Clare's choosing between owning her identity as a Negro and climbing out of disadvantage and poverty by passing; and not unlike Clare, Irene chose what was more personal to her.

And to be fair, Irene never betrayed Clare, she just---well, ahem---well, she just did something else, but it seemed natural that she would feel more strongly about the things that directly impacted her family.

I'm probably saying this in a very crude and unpolished way, so no insensitivity intended here, but in the end, we are all persons first with a common yet individual experience, before we are a race, no?