Nella Larsen‘s Passing focuses on two middle-class black women who reunite after a long break since their childhood friendship. Claire, one of the main characters’ passing as white due to her light skin complexion maintains her marriage and constructs the theme of the novel.
“It’s funny about ‘passing.’ We disapprove of it and at the same time condone it. It excites our contempt and yet we rather admire it. Why shy away from it with an odd kind of revulsion, but we protect it.”
Jessie Redmon Fauset started her career after reading T.S. Stribling’s novel Birthright (1922). This novel about Black life written by a white man introduced fallacies to the public, influenced Fauset among others to write about their experiences as people of color for a more accurate account.
Fauset joined W.E.B DuBois and Alain Locke at the NAACP’s The Crisis as editor. She became known for her unique focus on the African-American experience. Throughout her career, she received criticism for her position as a middle-class educated woman of mixed race. The politics of identity and intersectionality pushed Jessie Fauset’s work and voice to the fringe in the mid-20th century.
Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811 – 1896), abolitionist, mother, and humanitarian, used her pen as a catalyst for change. She is best known for Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which was the second best-selling book of the 19th century (just after the Bible), and the first international bestseller from any author, male or female. There’s little dispute that the book created a major shift in public perception of slavery.
Stowe was also concerned with the status of women, and used both her fiction and nonfiction writing to impart messages about their strength, intelligence, and worth. Read More→
Dame Rebecca West was one of the most respected and prolific intellectual minds of the twentieth century. At her death in 1983, William Shawn, then the editor of The New Yorker said of her: “Rebecca West was one of the giants and will have a lasting place in English literature. No one in this century wrote more dazzling prose, or had more wit, or looked at the intricacies of human character and the ways of the world more intelligently.” Here are some of her thought-provoking views:
Only part of our self is sane
“Only part of us is sane: only part of us loves pleasure and the longer day of happiness, wants to live to our nineties and die in peace, in a house that we built, that shall shelter those who come after us. The other half of us is nearly mad. It prefers the disagreeable to the agreeable, loves pain and its darker night despair, and wants to die in a catastrophe that will set back life to its beginnings and leave nothing of our house save its blackened foundations.” — Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, 1941 Read More→
Carson McCullers won literary accolades when she was only twenty-three with her 1940 novel The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. She described herself as “much too young to understand what happened to me or the responsibility it entailed.” Still, it was an epic achievement and a marvel that one so young had such a grasp of human nature. Here are twelve quotes from this twentieth century classic.
“My advice to you is this. Do not attempt to stand alone …The most fatal thing a man can do is try to stand alone.”
“All we can do is go around telling the truth.” Read More→