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Passing Interest

Racial Passing in US Novels, Memoirs, Television, and Film, 1990–2010

Julie Cary Nerad

Publication Year: 2014

Explores how the trope of racial passing continues to serve as a touchstone for gauging public beliefs and anxieties about race in this multiracial era.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Series: SUNY series in Multiethnic Literature


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Title Page, Series Page, Copyright Page

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Preface: The “Posts” of Passing

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pp. vii-x

Passing Interest: Racial Passing in U.S. Novels, Memoirs, Television, & Film, 1990–2010 is a most welcome addition to the scholarship on racial passing in the United States, a country uniquely defined by its historical obsession with a binaristic (black/white) racial discourse. In particular, this...

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pp. xi-xii

An earlier version of Lori Harrison‑Kahan’s “Passing for Black, White, and Jewish: Mixed Race Identity in Rebecca Walker and Danzy Senna” appeared in MELUS 30:1 (Spring 2005): 19–48 under the title “Passing for White, Passing for Jewish: Mixed Race Identity in Danzy Senna...

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1. Introduction: The (Not So) New Face of America

Julie Cary Nerad

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pp. 1-38

In a Politico story that reads somewhat like a postmodern, absurdist version of a news report, Stella O’Leary, the president of the Irish American Democrats, is quoted as saying that United States President Barack Obama is “as much Irish as he is Kenyan,” although, she adds, “he’s been...

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2. On the Margins of a Movement: Passing in Three Contemporary Memoirs

Irina Negrea

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pp. 39-68

Like the history of race in the United States, racial passing is usually messy, much messier than the growing body of scholarship on the phenomenon has yet addressed. Scholars such as Elaine K. Ginsberg, Werner Sollors, and Gayle Wald, among others, have laid a sound foundation...

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3. “A Cousin to Blackness”: Race and Identity in Bliss Broyard’s One Drop: My Father’s Hidden Life

Lynn Washington and Julie Cary Nerad

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pp. 69-94

In a video clip of the February 6, 2008, episode of “African American Lives 2” with Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., Bliss Broyard offers a detailed description of her racial background...

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4. Can One Really Choose? Passing and Self-Identification at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century

Jené Schoenfeld

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pp. 95-122

If racial passing was relevant enough in the year 2000 to devote an episode of a popular television show to the theme, why did that same show pretend that passing had not actually been relevant for almost fifty years? The WB’s show Angel evoked just such a conundrum when, in...

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5. Passing in Blackface: The Intimate Drama of Post-Racialism on Black.White.

Eden Osucha

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pp. 123-148

Prior to his election as the forty‑fourth U.S. president, media depictions of then‑candidate Barack Obama were frequently dominated by the question of what his candidacy meant for the durability of “race” in America. This question framed the historic election as a symbolic referendum...

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6. Broke Right in Half: Passing of/in Alice Randall’s The Wind Done Gone

Julie Cary Nerad

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pp. 149-178

In “Telling Forgotten Stories of Slavery in the Postmodern South,” Susan V. Donaldson suggests that the cultural shift(s) generated from/in a postmodern, postcolonial, postsegregation world “requires a new kind of historical novel, one that underscores its own provisional status by calling...

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7. Passing for Chicano, Passing for White: Negotiating Filipino American Identity in Brian Ascalon Roley’s American Son

Amanda Page

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pp. 179-202

Just as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 changed the racial dynamics of the United States, so, too, did the Immigration Act of 1965, which rewrote immigration policy to allow an equal number of immigrants to enter the United States from all countries of the globe, drastically changing...

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8. Race in the Marketplace: Postmodern Passing and Ali G

Ana Cristina Mendes

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pp. 203-228

On September 21, 2006, the British newspaper The Independent ran a front page image of the blacked‑up supermodel Kate Moss. Not only was her skin blackened, but also her lips were made bigger, her brows thicker, and her cheeks plumper. Both nose and cheekbones had been...

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9. Passing for Black, White, and Jewish: Mixed-Race Identity in Rebecca Walker and Danzy Senna

Lori Harrison‑Kahan

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pp. 229-254

Danzy Senna’s 1998 novel Caucasia narrates the coming‑of‑age story of a mixed‑race protagonist named Birdie Lee. The offspring of a civil rights movement union between a black intellectual father and a white activist mother, Birdie appears white, but actively identifies with...

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10. Smiling Faces: Chameleon Street, Racial Passing/Performativity, and Film Blackness

Michael B. Gillespie

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pp. 255-282

In 1985, an article in the Detroit Free Press (“Super Duper Imposter Says He Aided in Surgeries”) recapped the exploits of William Douglas Street Jr., a black man and self‑professed “Great Imposter” whose run of various criminal acts of impersonation began in the late 1960s. The article...

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11. Consuming Performances: Race, Media, and the Failure of the Cultural Mulatto in Bamboozled and Erasure

Meredith McCarroll

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pp. 283-306

In “The New Black Aesthetic” (1989), novelist and scholar Trey Ellis writes about “cultural mulattoes” who are phenotypically black but are culturally white enough to “navigate easily in the white world” (189).1 Employing terms at home in the concurrently rising multiracial movement...


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pp. 307-328

Contributor Biographies

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pp. 329-332


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pp. 333-348

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781438452296
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438452272

Page Count: 360
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: SUNY series in Multiethnic Literature
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OCLC Number: 883632017
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Passing Interest

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Subject Headings

  • American literature -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
  • American literature -- 21st century -- History and criticism.
  • Passing (Identity) -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Passing (Identity) -- United States -- History -- 21st century.
  • Passing (Identity) in literature.
  • Passing (Identity) in motion pictures.
  • Race in literature.
  • Race in motion pictures.
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