Nella Larsen (1891-1964) was the author of several short
stories and two novels, Quicksand and Passing. She
received a Guggenheim Fellowship to write a third novel in 1930
but, unable to find a publisher for it, she disappeared from the
literary scene and worked as a nurse in New York City.
Ntozake Shange is an American playwright and poet. Shange is a black feminist and a critic of the Black Arts Movement. She majored in American Studies at Barnard and earned a master's degree in the same field at UCLA. Her most famous work, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf, moved from Off-Broadway to Broadway and won the Obie Award, the Outer Critics Circle Award, and the AUDELCO Award.
Mae Henderson is a professor of English at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is the author of numerous articles on pedagogy, diasporic writing and performance, cultural studies and cultural criticism, as well as black feminist criticism and theory. Her essay "Speaking in Tongues: Dialogics, Dialectics, and the Black Woman Writer's Literary Tradition" has been widely anthologized. Henderson is also the editor of Black Queer Studies: A Critical Anthology and Borders, Boundaries and Frames, and coeditor (with John Blassingame) of the five-volume Antislavery Newspapers and Periodicals: An Annotated Index of Letters, 1817-1871.
Another trailblazer, Larsen wrote this novel in 1929. It follows Clare Kendry and Irene Redfield, two light-skinned black women who try to escape racism. Kendry chooses to sever all ties with her background and passes herself off as white, while Redfield simply denies that racism exists. Both, however, eventually are forced to face the awful truth. This edition contains a lengthy introduction and scholarly notes on the text. Essential for Black History Month.
Praise for Nella Larsen and Passing
"The genius of this book is that its protagonists . . . are complex and fully realized. . . . The work of a highly talented and thoughtful writer."-Richard Bernstein, The New York Times
"[Larsen's novels] open up a whole world of experience and struggle that seemed to me, when I first read them years ago, absolutely absorbing, fascinating, and indispensable."-Alice Walker
"[Larsen] offers characters so honest and desperate to be whole that we cannot help but champion their humanity."-From the introduction by Ntozake Shange