Nella Larsen was an important writer associated with the Harlem Renaissance. While she was not prolific, her work was powerful and critically acclaimed. Collected here are both of her novels, Passing and Quicksand, as well as all three of her published short stories; Freedom, The Wrong Man, and Sanctuary.
Quicksand was autobiographical in nature and examined a woman’s need for sexual fulfillment balanced against respectability and acceptance amid a deeply religious society. The novel is deeply pessimistic and ends as the protagonist is sucked into a life that is at odds with all that she desired.
Passing confronts the reality of racial passing. The novel focuses on two childhood friends, Clare and Irene, both of whom are light-skinned enough to pass as white, who have reconnected with one another after many years apart. Clare has chosen to pass while Irene has embraced her racial heritage and become an important member of her community. The novel examines how people pass on many different levels and in many different ways. Some forms of passing are perfectly acceptable while others can lead to disaster.
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Nella Larsen (1891-1964) was the author of two novels and several short stories. 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.