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Publisher's Summary

Light-skinned Black woman Irene Redfield encounters an old childhood friend - Clare - who is now "passing" as a White woman. Clare is married to a racist White man, who doesn't know she has African American blood. In spite of the danger of being found out by her husband and society at large, she finds herself helplessly drawn to Irene's world.... 

Passing is a fascinating listening experience on many simultaneous levels.

©1929 Nella Larsen (P)2020 Audible, Inc.

Featured Article: 150+ of the Best Quotes from Black Authors, Activists, Entrepreneurs, and Artists to Celebrate Black History Month


Black History is American History. Whether writers, poets, activists, entertainers, scientists, entrepreneurs, or some combination thereof, Black people have frequently offered exactly the right words when they were needed most. This sweeping collection of wise, stirring, and thought-provoking words from Black Americans offers much to inspire all Americans.

Go Behind the Scenes of Passing

Photo Credit: Alex Babsky
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What listeners say about Passing

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Almost didn't finish-so glad I did.

I almost didn't finish this freebie from Audible because the dialogue read like a harlequin romance. But, persevering, wondered is this what white people sound like to black folks (or did it in that era? And then I thought maybe it was a literary device to have the "passers" talk unconvincingly in the faux white voice, and as the protagonist points out to a partygoer that blacks can tell a white passing for black but a white can't seem to tell when a black is passing for white. So I thought, "hmmmm...maybe it was a clever device after all. At any rate the dialogue was hard to read but the story was really really good. I wasn't wild about the narrator but I think it was because of the dialogue she was given to work with. I think it was important for me, a white lady, to hear this story. The more we experience across races maybe the more the racial divide can heal. I think one root of the pain of BLM seems to be the feeling of voicelessness. I can only say "you go girl" to Nella Larson. And to paraphrase Wanda Sykes, white people are listening! (I got nothing but Love)

38 people found this helpful

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Short But Deep

This is an almost leisurely walk through a couple of African-American lives in the early 20th century and what it cost to live them. The end is left as a bit of mystery which suits me fine (unless I'm willfully choosing not to see what actually happened).

16 people found this helpful

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Good Story Badly Written

I have always wondered how a Black woman who is passing for White felt about living a lifestyle that is a lie. Claire is a Black woman passing for White. She can go to the best restaurants and hotels to live a life of privilege without the uncivility of being treated as a Black woman. She takes risks. The biggest risk though is that her husband is a white man who doesn't know her secret and when she gets pregnant, she goes through 9 months of hell terrified that her child may be born too dark. Husband is a bigot whose pet name for her is Nig. Read the book to understand why he calls her that if he doesn't know that she is Black.

Although the storyline was good the plot was not. We understand that the situation is whether or not Clair's secret will be discovered. We meet all the characters and understand their relationship with each other. The author does not give us any insight to Clair's feelings about her decision to pass for White. The characters meet but the author does not connect them emotionally in a way where we understand the different points of view. Then before you know it, the book has ended and you're left wondering what happened.

The dialogue was not the best and I found myself rewinding the audible to get a better understanding of what the authors intent is. The narrator did good with what she had.

I am curious about people who pass and will looking for other books with this topic.

12 people found this helpful

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Hard to follow

It was hard for me to follow the story because of the lack of differentiation of characters. This was due to the narrator not changing her voice enough to tell characters apart. I had to re-listen to chapters to try and make sense of the story line. I finished the book and can’t say I would recommend it to anyone. The story could be amazing with a narrator who has a broader range, which would make a world of difference. There is nothing wrong with the tone/sound of the narrator’s voice...if she was reading one character. I liked her voice. I am curious as to whether or not reading vs listening would have changed my opinion....not curious enough to try, though.

11 people found this helpful

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Narration was a problem for me

One of the narrators just was more affected than I could take. I couldn’t listen.

8 people found this helpful

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Black is White

Wow! This is racism in the 1920's through the eyes of two Black women that can each pass White. One uses it, while the other shuns it. This story has both sides of love/hate, admiration/distaste, and acceptance/fear. Very well done from the inside perspective.

7 people found this helpful

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Tessa Thompson did a stellar job!

Tessa Thompson’s reading and characterization is award worthy! I loved this book when I read it in high school. It was one of my favs but Tessa brought it to life in a whole new way!!!

6 people found this helpful

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Passing

A well written and highly insightful novella. The reading, with various voices, was fast paced and clear with appropriate nuances and inflections. To my mind, the novella was more authentic and convincing than the movie recently released.

3 people found this helpful

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Amazing

I loved the plot and the narrator was perfect. I was very curious to see where the story would go. It was very interesting to see two different women’s perspectives. I can’t help but wish there was more.

3 people found this helpful

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Perfectly Read

The confusion of race. Irene struggles within herself.
The ending is a surprise, we must come to our own conclusion. The narrator is outstanding for this story. Her voice made me feel Irene’s thoughts and emotions. Excellent writing, also.

3 people found this helpful

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  • papapownall
  • 11-15-21

Race, class and jealousy in 1920s Harlem

I have recently watched the Netflix film that is based on this 1929 book by Nella Larsen, It is certainly an eye opening story as I have not come across the idea of "passing" before. Listening to the audio version of this book after the film struck me how close Rebecca Hall's film adaptation is to the original story including some narrative that is lifted directly from the book. If anything, however, the Netflix film is less shocking as it has some of the disturbing racial language edited out. This is a powerful story that tackles themes including race, class and jealousy and leaves the listener wondering if we really have progressed at all in the past century.

2 people found this helpful

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  • lindabc
  • 01-05-22

Vaguely interesting but not compelling

I listened because I was interested in the concept of passing and thought it would be a good basis for a story + I like to learn about history and culture of other people. However, I wouldn't say the story has much going for it. Not recommended. I listened at 0.9 as the narration is quite fast.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Shelz Gichigi
  • 07-18-22

Absolutely beautiful and funny and uncomfortable

It’s an uncomfortable topic, there’s no doubt. But this book is written so beautifully and with such a great consideration for the nuances of the topic of colourism, racism and historical injustice that it makes it easy to both sympathise with the characters and dislike them all a little bit too. So cleverly written. I wish all books were this well considered!

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Andrew Fontenelle
  • 04-22-22

Passing

A classic from the Harlem Renaissance with an unexpected ending.

I have already watched the Netflix movie and found it a fascinating story. Tessa Thompson who is the co-star of the film narrates this audiobook.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Ms. NC Jenkins
  • 04-19-22

Resonant Harlem Renaissance novel

This novel exceeded my expectations. It was beautifully read in a way that enhanced the mounting tension and horror. I highly recommend it!

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Jamie Barron
  • 03-29-22

Beautifully-written and -performed

A really engrossing story, beautifully written with a luminous quality. A subtle and fascinating story exploring ideas of race and identity. A warm, atmospheric performance by Tessa Thompson.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 03-14-22

‘Tarbrush’

Poignant, authentic, lyrical and devastating. Obviously influenced Brit Bennett, worth listening to this fine narration

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • petal
  • 02-27-22

disturbing, beautiful and thought provoking

The writing was so intimate, you got a sense of truly understanding the innermost fears of Irene in the face of the unknown, unfathomable yet beautiful Claire. Ultimately Irene was unwilling to have Claire continue to take over the life she built for herself. She wanted her gone, and thus made it so.

Tessa Thompson's narration was so fitting and expert. Loved it

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Bella A
  • 01-05-22

Interesting themes

It definitely had The Great American Novel feel to it and it's probably a book very much of its time. Whilst it explored some very fascinating and important themes, it felt slightly under-developed. I did not really get a feel of what it was like (practically and psychologically) to pass - the impact of living that lie on a daily basis. Perhaps a missed opportunity.

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  • Alexandra Davies
  • 11-23-21

Great writing and narration

Tessa Thompson's narration was great! I loved the writing and the story was thought-provoking.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Louise
  • 08-01-22

Great on so many levels

As a stand alone story about an individual, this is great. As a social commentary, it is stunning. I found it absolutely fascinating and went on to find out more about the author and the times in which she lived, including societal norms and laws. I hope we have made progress but sometimes wonder. Tess Thompson is the perfect narrator and brings depth of emotion to this book which simply reading it may not have.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Kindle Customer
  • 06-14-22

Set in 1927

The negress who passes as white wants to befriend an old school friend and sneak back to her roots when white hubby is away. This story did not hold my full interest.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 05-12-22

Loved it

awesome. masterfully written and narrated. Short but very sweet, sad and powerful. Enjoyed very much. highly recommend

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 05-03-22

Fascinating Story, Beautifully Written

A shame the novel is so short. It so vividly captures the place and time.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 03-14-21

Colourful

Loved it beautifully written. The narrator captured the voices of all the characters. The most memorable part would be at the end.