In Search of Nella Larsen by George Hutchinson

George Hutchinson’s biography, In Search of  Nella Larsen: A Biography of the Color Line (2006) delves into her experience as a black woman who passed for white in certain environments. A factor studied by many, this privilege inspired Larsen’s unique perspective on the world, showing in her novels. Hutchinson gives justice to Nella Larsen‘s influence in the world of African-American art; namely the era of the Harlem Renaissance as she progressed as a writer despite the boundaries of race.

Bringing justice to Larsen’s life work
Reviews of the biography provide readers with constructive criticism to consider throughout the chapters of the literary world’s third attempt to bring justice to Larsen’s life work. It is important to notice that while Hutchinson’s accounts of Larsen’s journey are at times in depth, there are still details that have not been surfaced which potentially can provide insight necessary to understand her position in middle-class America during the 20th century.


Hutchinson highlights previous writers’ tendency to pathologize Nella Larsen’s identity along the lines of  the popular trope of the “tragic mulatto.” She was studied with the perspective of an outsider, trapped in the internal conflict created by the pressure to fit in with both black and white communities.

Preserving Larsen’s Legacy

While In Search of Nella Larsen would benefit from the publishing of a revised 2nd edition, the biography has updated our previous notions of Larsen’s legacy, providing readers with a solid overview and a motivation for continuing the search for Nella Larsen.

More about In Search of Nella Larsen

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