Crossing the Line: Racial Passing in Twentieth-Century U.S. by Gayle Wald

By Gayle Wald

As W. E. B. DuBois famously prophesied in The Souls of Black Folk, the fiction of the colour line has been of pressing crisis in defining a definite twentieth-century U.S. racial “order.” but the very arbitrariness of this line additionally supplies upward thrust to possibilities for racial “passing,” a tradition wherein topics acceptable the phrases of racial discourse. To erode race’s authority, Gayle Wald argues, we needs to know how race defines and but fails to symbolize id. She hence makes use of cultural narratives of passing to light up either the contradictions of race and the deployment of such contradictions for numerous wishes, pursuits, and desires.
Wald starts off her studying of twentieth-century passing narratives by means of examining works via African American writers James Weldon Johnson, Jessie Fauset, and Nella Larsen, exhibiting how they use the “passing plot” to discover the negotiation of identification, company, and freedom in the context in their protagonists' constrained offerings. She then examines the 1946 autobiography Really the Blues, which information the transformation of Milton Mesirow, middle-class son of Russian-Jewish immigrants, into Mezz Mezzrow, jazz musician and self-described “voluntary Negro.” Turning to the 1949 movies Pinky and
Lost Boundaries, which think African American citizenship inside class-specific protocols of race and gender, she interrogates the complex illustration of racial passing in a visible medium. Her research of “post-passing” testimonials in postwar African American magazines, which strove to foster black consumerism whereas developing “positive” photographs of black fulfillment and affluence within the postwar years, makes a speciality of missed texts in the records of black pop culture. eventually, after a glance at liberal contradictions of John Howard Griffin’s 1961 auto-ethnography Black Like Me, Wald concludes with an epilogue that considers the belief of passing within the context of the new discourse of “color blindness.”
Wald’s research of the ethical, political, and theoretical dimensions of racial passing makes Crossing the Line very important studying as we procedure the twenty-first century. Her attractive and dynamic booklet may be of specific curiosity to students of yank experiences, African American reviews, cultural stories, and literary criticism.

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