‘Passing’ keeps its writing simple, asking viewers to lean in for greater understanding

Posted in Arts, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2022-01-21 02:00Z by Steven

‘Passing’ keeps its writing simple, asking viewers to lean in for greater understanding

The Los Angeles Times
2022-01-18

Rebecca Hall

Adapting Nella Larsen’s slim novella took writer-director Rebecca Hall 13 years. “Ultimately, I did my best to build my script and my film, not so much out of language as out of small moments of behavior,” she says. (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

My adaptation of Nella Larsen’s “Passing” had a slow birth, even by the often glacial standards of script development. When I started writing, I was an actress in my 20s with vague but fervent aspirations to one day direct. I wrote the first draft in 10 days, immediately after first reading the novel, in something of a fugue state. I was fascinated but also mystified by that fascination, and my first draft was crude and impractical. I didn’t think for a second that I would ever have the means or the courage to turn it into a film.

In retrospect, I probably could never have written it otherwise. Over the years, I tinkered, adjusting it radically and then minutely and then radically again until it became something of a piece of me — not so much a project or a process as a thing that I have lived in dialogue with for the better part of my adult life.

The main challenge of the adaptation revolved around the character of Irene. Contemporary reviewers often missed both Irene’s centrality and her fundamental unreliability. Clare, the object of Irene’s obsession, was frequently taken to be the main character, rather than one half of the extraordinary — and extraordinarily complicated — relationship that drives the action…

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Romance and Race: Coloring the Past

Posted in Books, Forthcoming Media, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Monographs, Passing on 2022-01-12 17:14Z by Steven

Romance and Race: Coloring the Past

ACMRS Press
June 2022
160 pages
6″ x 9″
Hardcover ISBN: 9780866986946

Margo Hendricks, Professor Emerita
University of California, Santa Cruz

This study brings race and the literary tradition of romance into dialogue.

Romance and Race: Coloring the Past explores the literary and cultural genealogy of colorism, white passing, and white presenting in the romance genre. The scope of the study ranges from Heliodorus’ Aithiopika to the short novels of Aphra Behn, to the modern romance novel Forbidden by Beverly Jenkins. This analysis engages with the troublesome racecraft of “passing” and the instability of racial identity and its formation from the premodern to the present. The study also looks at the significance of white settler colonialism to early modern romance narratives. A bridge between studies of early modern romance and scholarship on twenty-first-century romance novels, this book is well-suited for those interested in the romance genre.

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Hannah Lowe

Posted in Articles, Audio, Biography, Caribbean/Latin America, Interviews, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2022-01-12 01:34Z by Steven

Hannah Lowe

Writers Mosaic
August 2020

Hannah Lowe was born in Essex in 1976 to a white English mother and Afro-Chinese Jamaican father. She studied American Literature at the University of Sussex, followed by an MA in Refugee Studies. She undertook her PhD in Creative Writing at Newcastle University in 2012.

Broadly, Lowe’s work is concerned with migration histories, multicultural London and the complex legacies of the British Empire. Her first poetry collection, Chick (Bloodaxe, 2013), blended these political concerns with a deeply personal and elegiac commemoration of her father, a member of the Windrush generation, who earnt a living in London through playing cards and dice. Her second collection, Chan (Bloodaxe, 2016), expanded these explorations of family in writing about the life and untimely death of her father’s cousin, the jazz saxophonist, Joe Harriott. In this book, Lowe developed a new poetic form – the ‘borderliner’ – which uses typography and double narration to explore ideas about multi-heritage experiences. Lowe’s work is often concerned with historical omissions, and in Ormonde, (Hercules Editions, 2014), she excavates the story of the SS Ormonde, on which her father migrated, and which arrived in Britain before the better known Empire Windrush. Most recently she has published the chapbook, The Neighbourhood, (Outspoken Press, 2019), which explores how communities respond to the pressures of austerity, gentrification and deportation. Her third full-length collection, The Kids, inspired by her work as an inner-city sixth form teacher, won the 2021 Costa Poetry Award…

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“The Bluest Eye” and “Imitation of Life” (1934): Variations on a Theme (Maggie Tarmey)

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2022-01-11 21:51Z by Steven

“The Bluest Eye” and “Imitation of Life” (1934): Variations on a Theme (Maggie Tarmey)

Toni Morrison: A Teaching and Learning Resource Collection
2021-06-08

Maggie Tarmey

The following essay is written by student Maggie Tarmey, with edits by Amardeep Singh.

While the two appear quite different from one another, Toni Morrison’s novel The Bluest Eye and the 1934 film adaptation of Imitation of Life (directed by John Stahl and adapted from Fannie Hurst’s 1933 novel of the same name) share many similarities. The Bluest Eye follows a young, dark-skinned Black girl in a small Ohio town in 1940. This girl, named Pecola Breedlove, wants to have blue eyes. It is her number one desire, and she believes that blue eyes, and only blue eyes, will make her beautiful.

In contrast, Imitation of Life follows the story of a white widow, Bea, and her Black domestic servant, Delilah, as they start a business selling Delilah’s famous pancakes. Delilah has a daughter named Peola who is so light skinned that she passes for white. Peola struggles throughout the film with her identity. While these sound like two entirely different stories, they are really not so different. I would argue that these two works similar stories from rather different perspectives. The Bluest Eye tells the story of young girls struggling with colorism and white supremacy from a Black cultural perspective with a Black audience in mind, while Imitation of Life puts forward a sanitized, far less nuanced version of a similar narrative, one that is authored by white creators (Hurst and Stahl) and targeted to predominantly white audiences…

Red the entire essay here.

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“My Uncle’s Cousin’s Great-Grandma Were a Cherokee” and I am Descended from an Ashanti King: The American Blood Idiom in the Simple Stories

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, United States on 2021-12-23 17:10Z by Steven

“My Uncle’s Cousin’s Great-Grandma Were a Cherokee” and I am Descended from an Ashanti King: The American Blood Idiom in the Simple Stories

The Langston Hughes Review
Volume 27, No. 1, SPECIAL ISSUE: “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” at 100: Part One Shane Graham and Chiyuma Elliott (2021)
pages 29-56
DOI: 10.5325/langhughrevi.27.1.0029

DeLisa D. Hawkes, Assistant Professor of English
University of Texas, El Paso

Langston Hughes satirizes America’s obsession with so-called “racial purity” in his stories featuring Jesse B. Semple to shed light upon internalized racism and white American attempts to erase US histories that complicate the standardized black-white color line. In his poem “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” (1920), the speaker challenges a singular view of the many Black histories that exist through the metaphor of rivers. In his Simple stories, Hughes’s character Jesse B. Semple reflects on American Blackness and blood stereotypes that impact racial identity formation and community building. By invoking the “Indian grandmother” and royal African ancestor tropes, Hughes complicates those compartmentalized identities and US histories implied via the American blood idiom to denote associations with enslavement that bolster notions of intraracial difference and white supremacist ideology. Hughes’s Simple stories culminate his trajectory in establishing African American pride in African ancestry and an anticolonial rejection of racial purity as a legal and social principle that contributes to monolithic conceptions of American Blackness.

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Passing for white or the true colors of Cuban miscegenation

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing on 2021-12-14 01:30Z by Steven

Passing for white or the true colors of Cuban miscegenation

OnCuba News
2021-12-08

Odette Casamayor, Associate Professor of Romance Languages
University of Pennsylvania


Photo: Kaloian Santos.

The miscegenation, in addition to being fierce and magical, painful or romantic, torment, fun, depending on how you want to interpret it, is one of the most insidious phenomena that exists.

I am black, in all circumstances and scenarios. I could never pass for anything else. Perhaps that is why I have always been curious about the strategies deployed by many in what could be considered another national sport: “passing for white.”

There is abundant magic and tragedy in each link of a complicated gear that, since colonial times, has operated relentlessly in Latin American societies. In the territories colonized by the Iberian metropolises, miscegenation would go beyond its primary biological dimension to, regardless of its intensity, become an important instrument of social mobility, promoting progress as the skin whitens and the negroid features become blurred or, as is commonly said, “the race is improved.” Meanwhile, in the Anglo-Saxon north equal opportunities were not granted to the mestizo subject. That is why what many call “the race,” because they choose to consider it a reality and not a historical, political and socio-economically determined construction, cannot in appearance be “improved” in the United States.

However, miscegenation, in addition to being fierce and magical, painful or romantic, torment, fun, depending on how you want to interpret it, is one of the most insidious phenomena that exists. Miscegenation has always been a pandemic: it occurs everywhere when it is least expected and promoted. So, although much less structured than in Latin America, the mechanism of “passing for white” also has a following in the United States…

Read the entire article here.

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A Conversation with Jewell Parker Rhodes and Kelly McWilliams

Posted in Interviews, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States, Videos on 2021-12-08 02:10Z by Steven

A Conversation with Jewell Parker Rhodes and Kelly McWilliams

PEN America
2021-10-18

Award-winning novelist and educator Jewell Parker Rhodes and her daughter, young adult author Kelly McWilliams, came together in conversation to discuss book bans and young adult literature. As individuals, it is our duty to provide the next generation of writers, teachers, journalists, activists, and readers with an education that includes all facets of life, an education that is free from unreasonable censorious threats. This discussion addressed the vital role that children’s and young adult literature plays in the process of education, and how we can work to protect our youth from the threats to free expression.

This discussion was presented in partnership with the Miami Book Fair.

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I Hear the Train: Reflections, Inventions, Refractions

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, Native Americans/First Nation, United States on 2021-12-06 20:00Z by Steven

I Hear the Train: Reflections, Inventions, Refractions

University of Oklahoma Press
October 2001
282 pages
6 X 9
12 B&W Photos
Hardcover ISBN: 9780806133546
Paperback ISBN: 9780806190143

Louis Owens (1948-2002), Professor of English and Native American Studies
University of California, Davis

In this innovative collection, Louis Owens blends autobiography, short fiction, and literary criticism to reflect on his experiences as a mixedblood Indian in America.

In sophisticated prose, Owens reveals the many timbres of his voice—humor, humility, love, joy, struggle, confusion, and clarity. We join him in the fields, farms, and ranches of California. We follow his search for a lost brother and contemplate along with him old family photographs from Indian Territory and early Oklahoma. In a final section, Owens reflects on the work and theories of other writers, including Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Gerald Vizenor, Michael Dorris, and Louise Erdrich.

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Passing into Film: Rebecca Hall’s Adaptation of Nella Larsen

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Communications/Media Studies, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2021-12-03 15:18Z by Steven

Passing into Film: Rebecca Hall’s Adaptation of Nella Larsen

Modernism/modernity
Volume 6, Cycle 2 (2021-11-10)

Rafael Walker, Assistant Professor of English
Baruch College, City University of New York

Fig. 1. Promotional poster for Rebecca Hall’s Passing (2021). Image via IMDB.

Director Rebecca Hall’s recent adaptation of Nella Larsen’s exquisite second novel, Passing (1929), is visually stunning. I had the pleasure of seeing the film on the big screen, during its limited theatrical run and before its Netflix release. It was the ideal atmosphere for absorbing this cinematic rendering of Larsen’s eerie, anxiety-ridden plot: ensconced with a sparse audience (my companion and I comprising two of the four patrons for the 5:10pm showing) in a small independent theater in Manhattan, just a few miles from where the story is set, and with Halloween everywhere looming on this late-October evening.1

These qualities of the novel were only enhanced by Hall’s decision to film it in black and white, a daring choice that she, a first-time filmmaker, had to fight for, as Alexandra Kleeman of the New York Times reports. On the one hand, this artistic decision conjures all the nervous palpitations that Hitchcock made synonymous with black-and-white mise-en-scène, maintaining the unshakable uneasiness one experiences while reading Larsen’s novel. On the other, it hurls the either-or terms of Jim Crow racial binarism into conflict with a predominating grayscale—an all-pervading sign of the fictionality of the dichotomizations structuring American culture. Nothing could be more in the spirit of Nella Larsen’s novel. I suspect, however, that Hall’s departures from the source text will attract the attention of modernists far more than her convergences…

Read the entire review here.

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Getting into Character: Racial Passing and the Limitations of Performativity and Performance in Britt Bennett’s The Vanishing Half

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2021-11-30 01:22Z by Steven

Getting into Character: Racial Passing and the Limitations of Performativity and Performance in Britt Bennett’s The Vanishing Half

Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction
Published online 2021-11-22
DOI: 10.1080/00111619.2021.2007838

Ohad Reznick, Ph.D. Candidate
Department of Foreign Literatures and Linguistics
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beersheba, Israel

Judith Butler’s notion of performativity has been criticized because of its overemphasis on the individual’s performance, while it remains questionable how it changes heteronormativity. In the same way that drag performance challenges the man/woman binary, racial passing challenges the White/Black binary. However, whether passing alters the societal perception of race remains debatable. Analyzing the tropes of acting and passing in Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half, I argue that the novel delineates a tension between a liberal mind-set, according to which passing exemplifies the performativity of identity and a close-minded perspective, according to which one cannot choose one’s racial identity. While the novel unsettles the line between acting and being authentic, and, analogously, the line between an original racial identity and an adopted one, it depicts most of its characters as refusing to accept racial transformations. Likewise, the novel presents gender identity as performative, but not in the eyes of society.

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