Visiting her hometown Chicago, a series of events brings Irene to the Drayton Hotel’s tearoom where she runs into Clare, an annoying woman she grew up with. This meeting entangles Irene into Clare’s life. Irene and her friends would just as soon avoid Clare, but the beautiful, vivacious Clare has no problem begging or inviting herself to any social function. No hint will deter her. Clare gets what she wants.
Both women are light-skinned African Americans. Clare passe in white society, while Irene chooses to center herself in the African American community.
Clare’s married to a rich, white man that Irene meets and discovers he’s a terrible racist, so much so that he won’t have anything to do with people who’re African American. Clare likes risk, while Irene’s life is about playing it safe. Irene and her other old friend can’t believe Clare would risk her husband discovering her ethnic origins.
Years pass between Clare’s chance meeting with Irene at the Drayton. Clare writes to Irene beseeching her to get together. Because Irene was so turned off by Clare’s husband and just doesn’t like Clare, she’s loathe to respond, yet somehow she can’t stop herself. Before she knows it, Irene’s got Clare in her social circle. Clare relishes being back in Black society while her husband’s traveling for business.
As much as she’d like to Irene can’t put the breaks on Clare. Given Clare’s husband’s hatred for African American’s it’s clear that Clare’s playing with fire and tension grows as disaster looms.
Written by Nella Larsen of the Harlem Renaissance, Passing is a well written novella that gave me new insights into Black culture. It’s an original, insightful novel that ends in a surprising way. I whole-heartedly recommend.