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A Monthly Culture Matrix For the Cosmopolitan Traveler


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Set in Harlem, Nella Larsen’s 1929 novel Passing is one of those books that stays with you, not just for the writing, which is exquisite and moving, but for the story and the questions it raises, still relevant all these years later. The plot, which centers on two childhood girlfriends, both Black, and the decision one of them makes to “pass” as white, is informed by Larsen’s own mixed racial heritage. Now, the book has been adapted for the screen by Rebecca Hall, herself a woman of mixed heritage. Though the movie, starring Ruth Negga and Tessa Thompson, is set in the 20s and beautifully filmed in black and white, the present-day courses through it. Passing may not be as loaded a thing as it was in the pre-civil-rights era, but its implications are very much alive. —J.V.

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