Sunday, October 22, 2006

Words: Passing

It was a long day at work. I was sent to the Crisis Unit to watch a child that decided to walk along the edge of a wall and threaten to kill himself. I was babysitting until the people came from the hospital to screen him for admittance. So while he slept and I needed to occupy myselfI finished Nella Larsen's Passing, a Harlem Renaissance novel. Taking place in a late 20s summer in Chicago and New York, it tracks the rekindling of friendship between three women, now with families of their own. The twist is that they are all African-American but possess a pigmentation that allows them to behave as though they were white, hence the title. While two are proud of their blackness, one is straight up trying to live life like she was white. Her husband doesn't even realize that she is black.

Deftly written and consistently engaging, the main draw of this book is its ability to provoke thought. In a time when access to certain privileges of life are determined by the arbitrary, how far would you go to deny your identity? What would you stand for? What wouldn't you? I still don't have any answers but I've been thinking about it ever since I started reading. Then there's the other side. How far would you go to exploit your identity for gain (cough - affirmative action - cough)?

Anyway, it's a quick read and like I said worth the brain activity.

Happy Birthday to my Mom who made sure I made regular trips to the library, sang me loads of songs as a baby, and let me watch Christian video tapes. She baptized me in so much culture. And she helped make me the man I am today. Love you.

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