Quiet as its Kept: Passing Subjects, Contested Identities

Posted in Forthcoming Media, History, Identity Development/Psychology, Live Events, Passing, Social Science, United States on 2019-02-24 03:38Z by Steven

Quiet as its Kept: Passing Subjects, Contested Identities

Vassar College
Poughkeepsie, New York
Friday, 2019-04-05 through Sunday, 2019-04-07

Passing Beyond Passing

The phrase “passing for white” first appears in advertisements for the return of runaway slaves. Abolitionist fiction later adopts the phenomenon of racial passing (together with the figure of the “white slave”) as a major literary theme. The term continued to enjoy currency in literature in the postbellum era and during the Harlem Renaissance. Today, “passing” has various manifestations and applications. Not limited to race, the term may indicate subversions of gender, sexuality, religion, ability and class, among other identity coordinates.

This conference responds to renewed interest in passing that derives from the popularity of genetic genealogy tests, sensational cases of racial fraud (i.e., Rachel Dolezal), the idea of “realness” appropriated from ball culture, racial ambiguity in a surveillance state, public fascination with celebrities like Meghan Markle, and the construction (and manipulation) of online identities (i.e., catfishing and blackfishing). Interdisciplinary perspectives on passing, miscegenation, authenticity, sexuality, kinship, and racial ambiguity in the arts, law, memory, popular culture, and the racial state are invited. Themes may include betrayal, secrecy, dissimulation, subjectivity, masquerade, visibility/invisibility, surveillance, fraud, and belonging.

At Vassar College, interest in this topic has reemerged since the publication of Karin Tanabe’s novel The Gilded Years (2016), about Anita Hemmings’ experience as the first black woman known to attend the College. In 1900, poet, novelist, lyricist Paul Laurence Dunbar modeled one of his musical characters (Parthenia Jenkins in Uncle Eph’s Christmas) after Anita Hemmings. By placing a character with Hemmings’ stature in a farce, Dunbar lampoons class / caste based distinctions. More importantly, he associates Hemmings – a racial performer celebrated for her respectability – with less-respected, equally assertive performers of race. Hemmings’s story is currently being adapted into a film, A White Lie, starring Zendaya and produced by Reese Witherspoon and Zendaya. This conference provides an opportunity to reflect on Hemmings’ experience – and those of other black women – who integrated women’s colleges.

This conference is also an occasion to rethink identity categories that have long been naturalized or taken for granted. From critical race theorists, sociologists, and social psychologists like Cheryl I. Harris, George Lipsitz, and Claude Steele to labor historians and feminist scholars such as David Roediger and Ruth Frankenberg, many intellectuals have examined whiteness as a social formation to which disparate ethnic groups (i.e., Jewish, Italian, and Irish) have assimilated. This conference (and concomitant art show at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center) can facilitate careful rethinking of assumptions about identity formations and affiliations. All are welcome.

For more information, click here.

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Zendaya to produce, star in thriller on Anita Hemmings, first black woman Vassar grad, passing as white to attend

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-11-15 17:59Z by Steven

Zendaya to produce, star in thriller on Anita Hemmings, first black woman Vassar grad, passing as white to attend

Shadow And Act
2017-11-14


Zendaya (left) and Anita Hemmings (right).

Zendaya has booked what Deadline calls a hot pitch package on the street right now.

The film is called ‘A White Lie’ and it is a film adaptation of the Karin Tanabe novel, The Gilded Years.

The novel, a psychological thriller, “built around the true story of Anita Hemmings, a light-skinned African American woman. She is the daughter of a janitor, who passed as white so she could attend Vassar at the turn of the century.” She is treated as a wealthy and educated white woman and sparks a romance with a rich Harvard student.

Zendaya will play Hemmings…

Read the entire article here.

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Zendaya To Star In ‘A White Lie,’ Pitch Package From Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-11-15 17:43Z by Steven

Zendaya To Star In ‘A White Lie,’ Pitch Package From Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine

Deadline
2017-11-13

Mike Fleming Jr


REX/Shutterstock

The hot pitch package on the street is A White Lie, an adaptation of the Karin Tanabe novel The Gilded Years. The book is a psychological thriller built around the true story of Anita Hemmings, a light-skinned African-American woman. The daughter of a janitor, she passed as white so she could attend Vassar at the turn of the 20th century. Spider-Man: Homecoming star co-star Zendaya will play Hemmings. Monica Beletsky is writing the script, and Hello Sunshine’s Witherspoon and Lauren Neustadter are producing along with Zendaya…

Read the entire article here.

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Karin Tanabe: THE GILDED YEARS

Posted in Live Events, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2016-06-14 15:25Z by Steven

Karin Tanabe: THE GILDED YEARS

Busboys and Poets
Langston Room
2021 14th Street, NW (14 & V Street, NW)
Washington, D.C. 20009
Tuesday, 2016-06-14, 18:30-20:30 EDT (Local Time)

Politics & Prose at Busboys and Poets 14th & V welcomes Karin Tanabe to present the new book “The Gilded Years.”

A Politico journalist turned novelist, Tanabe has reported on politics and society for Entertainment Tonight, CNN, and Inside Edition, experience she drew on for the Washington insider fiction of The List and The Price of Inheritance. Her third novel looks at class, race, and ambition in the Gilded Age, following smart and talented Anita Hemmings—daughter of a janitor—as she realizes her dream of attending Vassar. But Anita is also the descendent of slaves, and though her pale skin allows her to “pass” for white, as she moves among the wealthy elite of 1897 high society, she walks an increasingly tense line concerning her identity.

Tanabe will be in conversation with LaFleur Paysour, communications director for the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

For more information, click here.

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The Gilded Years, A Novel

Posted in Books, Media Archive, Novels, Passing, Women on 2016-06-07 14:42Z by Steven

The Gilded Years, A Novel

Washington Square Press (an imprint of Simon & Schuster)
2016-06-07
384 pages
Paperback ISBN: 9781501110450
eBook ISBN: 9781501110467

Karin Tanabe
Washington, D.C.

Passing meets The House of Mirth in this “utterly captivating” (Kathleen Grissom, New York Times bestselling author of The Kitchen House) historical novel based on the true story of Anita Hemmings, the first black student to attend Vassar, who successfully passed as white—until she let herself grow too attached to the wrong person.

Since childhood, Anita Hemmings has longed to attend the country’s most exclusive school for women, Vassar College. Now, a bright, beautiful senior in the class of 1897, she is hiding a secret that would have banned her from admission: Anita is the only African-American student ever to attend Vassar. With her olive complexion and dark hair, this daughter of a janitor and descendant of slaves has successfully passed as white, but now finds herself rooming with Louise “Lottie” Taylor, the scion of one of New York’s most prominent families.

Though Anita has kept herself at a distance from her classmates, Lottie’s sphere of influence is inescapable, her energy irresistible, and the two become fast friends. Pulled into her elite world, Anita learns what it’s like to be treated as a wealthy, educated white woman—the person everyone believes her to be—and even finds herself in a heady romance with a moneyed Harvard student. It’s only when Lottie becomes infatuated with Anita’s brother, Frederick, whose skin is almost as light as his sister’s, that the situation becomes particularly perilous. And as Anita’s college graduation looms, those closest to her will be the ones to dangerously threaten her secret.

Set against the vibrant backdrop of the Gilded Age, an era when old money traditions collided with modern ideas, Tanabe has written an unputdownable and emotionally compelling story of hope, sacrifice, and betrayal—and a gripping account of how one woman dared to risk everything for the chance at a better life.

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