Cover image for Passing : when people can't be who they are
Title:
Passing : when people can't be who they are
Author:
Kroeger, Brooke, 1949-
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Public Affairs, [2003]

©2003
Physical Description:
vii, 279 pages ; 22 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9781891620997
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

Through the provocative stories of six contemporary passers, and examples from history and literature, a renowned journalist illuminates passing as a strategy for bypassing prejudice and injustice. Despite the many social changes of the last half-century, many Americans still pass: black for white, gay for straight, and now in many new ways as well. We tend to think of passing in negative terms -as deceitful, cowardly, a betrayal of one's self. But this compassionate book reveals that many passers today are people of good heart and purpose whose decision to pass is an attempt to bypass injustice, and to be more truly themselves. Passing tells the poignant, complicated life stories of a black man who passed as a white Jew; a white woman who passed for black; a working class Puerto Rican who passes for privileged; a gay, Conservative Jewish seminarian and a lesbian naval officer who passed for straight; and a respected poet who radically shifts persona to write about rock 'n 'roll. The stories, interwoven with others from history, literature, and contemporary life, explore the many forms passing still takes in our culture; the social realities which make it an option; and its log


Reviews 2

Booklist Review

The term passing is most often thought of as racial minorities passing for white to receive the privileges denied them due to race. Butroeger plumbs the varieties and complexities of passing across racial, sexual, and economic lines. She offers profiles of a black man who passed for a whiteew; a working-class Puerto Rican woman who became an Orthodoxew and passed for privileged; a gay man at a conservativeewish seminary passing for straight; a lesbian naval officer who passed for straight; and a respected poet who, on a lark, adopts a difference persona and ends up writing pseudonymously about the rock-and-roll music scene.roeger intersperses these profiles with references in history, literature, psychology, and contemporary culture that explore the dynamics of passing--the lies and deception involved as well as the separation from community and family. She also explores the parallels between civil disobedience and passing, which, although it is a self-centered act, allows the passer to secure opportunities in the present rather than waiting for social change. An engaging look at how certain people choose to deal with social inequities. --Vanessa Bush Copyright 2003 Booklist


Publisher's Weekly Review

Biographer Kroeger, whose lives of reporter Nellie Bly (1994) and novelist Fannie Hurst (1999) were well received, now extends Hurst's Imitation of Life subplot on "passing" into luminous sociological research. Passing-the search to be what you're not-has gotten a bad reputation over the years, and Kroeger's aim is to challenge readers' assumptions regarding this still-taboo topic. To this end she assembles six profiles of young contemporary Americans, mixing extensive interviews with expert comment from psychologists and ethicists, with reference to such tragic tales of "passing" as that of Brandon Teena, the drifter whose murder became the basis for the film Boys Don't Cry. Among Kroeger's portraits: a half-Jewish man suppresses the black heritage of his father; a Puerto Rican student becomes an Orthodox Jew; a gay man denies his growing homosexuality to obtain a rabbinical certification, while a career navy officer hides in the closet unwilling in the age of "Don't ask, don't tell" either to ask or tell. Some of the stories are genuinely moving, some amusing, and Kroeger explicates the dilemmas with a fine understanding of the difficulties of modern life. A male rock critic with a female-sounding pseudonym lies to his cross-country editors about his gender, then gets to keep his job anyhow, as all involved come to realize the extent to which everyone "passes" in one way or another. Kroeger skillfully musters scholarly and theoretical sources to support her speculations on identity and authenticity, and even casts an eye back to the original Passing, Nella Larsen's 1929 Harlem Renaissance masterpiece. "Who says I am obliged," asks Kroeger, "to be what you think I am? Or what I think you think I am? Or even what I think I am but sincerely wish I weren't?" Kroeger's study is quirky and provocative, and doesn't settle for answers where none can be found. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved