• Publication Date: October 31, 2023
  • ISBN: 9781554815159 / 1554815150
  • 198 pages; 5½" x 8½"

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  • Publication Date: October 31, 2023
  • ISBN: 9781554815159 / 1554815150
  • 198 pages; 5½" x 8½"

Written at the height of the Harlem Renaissance (the first sustained artistic movement by African Americans) and of Jim Crow (one of this cultural group’s greatest obstacles), Nella Larsen’s 1929 novel Passing is easily among the most penetrating, skillfully composed explorations of race and gender in the twentieth century. It focuses on two estranged friends, Irene Redfield and Clare Kendry, who, after years apart, are joltingly thrown back together, their lives transformed radically through one of the most scandalous and intriguing social phenomena of Larsen’s time—racial passing. Today, Larsen is ranked as one of the leading novelists of her generation; this novel, her masterpiece, demonstrates why.

Appendices include material on the novel’s composition and reception, as well as legal documents relating to mixed-race individuals and a selection of recent critical work on the novel’s afterlife and the 2021 film adaptation.


“This new edition of Nella Larsen’s now-classic novel, with Rafael Walker’s excellent introduction and chronology, along with relevant reviews and contemporary documents about passing, is the best we have, perfect for classroom use and the general reader alike.” — George Hutchinson, Cornell University, author of In Search of Nella Larsen: A Biography of the Color Line

“Rafael Walker’s introduction, along with the edition’s appendices, offers important historical contextualization for Larsen’s life and novels. These materials enhance, rather than cover over, the proliferation of meanings and contradictions that emerge not only from reviews and criticism but also from biographies and accounts that detail the archival fragments of who Larsen was. Nella Larsen was a formidable novelist and social figure of the Harlem Renaissance, but Walker creates a pathway for students and educators alike to confidently approach the magnitude of her being.” — Haylee Harrell, University of Houston

Nella Larsen: A Brief Chronology
A Note on the Text


Appendix A: Contemporary Reviews of Passing

  • 1. Alice Dunbar-Nelson, Review in Column Titled “As in a Looking Glass,” Washington Eagle (2 March 1929)
  • 2. Esther Hyman, “Passing by Nella Larsen,” The Bookman: A Review of Books and Life (June 1929)
  • 3. W.B. Seabrook, “Touch of the Tar-brush,” Saturday Review of Literature (18 May 1929)
  • 4. Audrey Bowser, “The Cat Came Back,” New York Amsterdam (5 June 1929)
  • 5. W.E.B. Du Bois, “Passing,” The Crisis (July 1929)

Appendix B: Selected Correspondence from Nella Larsen

  • 1. On the Writing and Publication of Her Novel
    • a. Letter to Carl Van Vechten (19 March 1928)
    • b. Letter to Carl Van Vechten (April 1928)
    • c. Letter to Carl Van Vechten (undated)
    • d. Letter to Carl Van Vechten (3 September 1928)
    • e. From Letter to Carl Van Vechten (15 October 1928)
  • 2. On Interracial Marriage and Racial Passing
    • a. From Letter to Carl Van Vechten (31 July 1929)
    • b. From Letter to Carl Van Vechten (14 May 1932)
  • 3. Correspondence with Other Major Writers of the Period
    • a. Letter to Langston Hughes (1 May 1928)
    • b. Letter to Langston Hughes (c. 1930)
    • c. Letter to James Weldon Johnson (c. 22 July 1930)
    • d. Letter to Gertrude Stein (1 February 1929)
    • e. Letter to Walter White (c. 1925–26)

Appendix C: Other Biographical Documents about Nella Larsen

  • 1. Autobiographical Statement to Knopf
  • 2. Nella Larsen’s Application to the Library School of the New York Public Library
  • 3. Mary Rennels, “Behind the Backs of Books and Authors,” New York Telegram (13 April 1929)
  • 4. Larsen’s Response to Accusation of Plagiarism, Forum (April 1930)
  • 5. “Imes Must Pay: Love Triangle behind Fisk Univ. Divorce,” Afro-American (21 October 1933)
  • 6. Photos of Nella Larsen
    • a. Nella Larsen, c. 1930
    • b. Nella Larsen receiving the Harmon Award bronze medal, 1929
    • c. Nella Larsen, 17 April 1932

Appendix D: Key Legal Cases Involving Mixed-Race Individuals

  • 1. Plessy v. Ferguson (1896)
  • 2. Kirby v. Kirby (1922)
  • 3. Rhinelander v. Rhinelander (1925)
  • 4. Loving v. Virginia (1967)

Appendix E: The Afterlife of Passing

  • 1. Lauren Michele Jackson, Review of Passing, 4Columns (5 November 2021)
  • 2. Imani Perry, “Passing Is a Film about Race from the Black Gaze,” Harper’s Bazaar (11 November 2021)
  • 3. Rafael Walker, “Passing into Film: Rebecca Hall’s Adaptation of Nella Larsen,” Modernism/modernity Print Plus (10 November 2021)

Works Cited and Select Bibliography

Rafael Walker is Assistant Professor of English, Baruch College, City University of New York. He is the editor of The Awakening and Selected Stories (Warbler Classics).