Good evening beautiful people,
I just wanted to share with you a book I read awhile ago as I began to first organize and research for “Beyond The Colored Line”. As many of you know, I prepare to release a short story soon that deals with the concept of passing: when a member of one ethnic group passes as a member of another ethnic group. Most notably, when an African American who appears European passes, or pretends, to belong to that race. So far this has been an amazing experience exploring history and I’ve had the opportunity to come across some decent reading material. One of the books I read is “The House Behind The Cedars” by Charles W. Chesnutt who was, interestingly enough, light enough himself to pass and did on occasion. (Chesnutt’s paternal Grandfather, Waddell Cade, was a white slaveholder and his Grandmother, Ann Chesnutt, Cade’s mistress, was a free woman of color).
The book is about brother and sister John and Rena Walden, two African Americans, who decide to cross the colored line by pretending to be white to claim and maintain their portion of the American dream. And it gets deep too. The book was first published back in 1900 and reveals how deep self hatred can be for a people lost to true identity. It shows the extent some are willing to go to keep secrets hidden and what they are willing to endure to be part of the American fabric in which they too believe they are entitled to. It also showcases how the depth of childhood exposure and teachings play a part in one’s perception, not just of the world, but of one’s own self. Without revealing too much, I like how Chesnutt surpassed just race in general but included also status. No one would choose to be poor or hungry, black or white, and I find this is the basis of which many of my ancestors who did pass built their logic. However, at what price is one willing to pay in order to live the American dream?
Since I am on my phone I cannot link to it, but this book is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Just search:
The House Behind The Cedars by Charles W. Chesnutt. Its among the Penguin Classics. (In case you’re not obsessed with books, here’s a secret: look under used books and see if your books are available for as cheap as possible. I find lots of Amazon classics for like a penny, if not free altogether, and just pay for shipping.)