In celebration of Black History Month, the Office of Equity and Human Rights and the Iowa City Public Library are hosting a virtual book discussion, on “Passing” by Nella Larsen. The program will take place Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023, from 7-8:30 p.m.

The virtual discussion will be facilitated by Abena Sankofa Imhotep, Director of Sankofa Literary and Empowerment Group of Des Moines.

About "Passing"

Irene Redfield is a Black woman living an affluent, comfortable life with her husband and children in the thriving neighborhood of Harlem in the 1920s. When she reconnects with her childhood friend Clare Kendry, who is similarly light-skinned, Irene discovers that Clare has been passing for a white woman after severing ties to her past – even hiding the truth from her racist husband.

Clare finds herself drawn to Irene’s sense of ease and security with her Black identity and longs for the community (and, increasingly, the woman) she lost. Irene is both riveted and repulsed by Clare and her dangerous secret, as Clare begins to insert herself – and her deception – into every part of Irene’s stable existence. First published in 1929, Larsen’s brilliant examination of the various ways in which we all seek to “pass,” is as timely as ever.

How to participate

The event will take place via Zoom. Participants may register here. Meeting ID: 845 5938 3669.

The Iowa City Public Library has copies of "Passing" to support the program. The book is available in printeBook through Hoopla, and as an audiobook.

The Office of Equity and Human Rights is offering a limited number of complimentary copies of the book to persons who reside in Iowa City and who would not financially otherwise be able to participate in the book discussion. To request a copy, please email or call 319-356-5022. Early requests are encouraged, as the complimentary books will be distributed in the order in which requests are received.

For those who prefer to watch, the book was adapted into a Netflix film of the same name directed by Rebecca Hall. The trailer can be found here. A Netflix subscription is required to view the film.

If you will need disability-related accommodations in order to participate in this event, please contact Equity Director Stefanie Bowers at 319-356-5022 or Early requests are strongly encouraged to allow sufficient time to meet your access needs.

Date of publication

Wednesday, January 18, 2023