Nella Larsen’s Passing (1929) and Danzy Senna’s Caucasia (1999) are stories that explore the complex social systems of people with multiracial identities, as well as the difficulties and struggles for recognition that mixed-race protagonists had to endure in twentieth-century America. Passing is set in the Harlem neighborhood in the early 1920s. In depicting the friendship between Clare and Irene, the novel focuses on the practice of racial passing. Larsen explores and comments on race relations and mixed racial identity. Set in the mid-1970s, Caucasia is a novel focused on the state of in-betweenness of two multiracial girls, Birdie Lee and her sister Cole. In comparing Passing and Caucasia, I will analyze the portrayal of the characters’ state of liminality as they “pass”, and the presentation of this contradictory process of self-affirmation and identity formation.
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