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by Nella Larsen
160 pages

Tuesday, April 12 - TIFF presents Books on Film: Rebecca Hall on Passing

Writer-director Rebecca Hall discusses her adaptation of Nella Larsen’s 1929 novel of the same name, about two Black women (Tessa Thompson and Academy Award nominee Ruth Negga) contending with the notion of “passing” for white.

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Nella Larsen’s second novel, Passing, first published in 1929, is a fascinating exploration of race and identity set amidst the blossoming Harlem Renaissance.

Irene Redfield is a Black woman living an affluent, comfortable life with her husband and children in the thriving neighborhood of Harlem in the 1920s. When she reconnects with her childhood friend Clare Kendry, who is similarly light-skinned, Irene discovers that Clare has been passing for a white woman after severing ties to her past—even hiding the truth from her racist husband.

Clare finds herself drawn to Irene’s sense of ease and security with her Black identity and longs for the community (and, increasingly, the woman) she lost. Irene is both riveted and repulsed by Clare and her dangerous secret, as Clare begins to insert herself—and her deception—into every part of Irene’s stable existence. Nearly a century later, Larsen’s brilliant examination of the various ways in which we all seek to “pass” is as timely as ever.