Quicksand

ISBN-10: 0141181273

ISBN-13: 9780141181271

Edition: 2002

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Description: Born to a white mother and an absent black father, and despised for her dark skin, Helga Crane has long had to fend for herself. As a young woman, Helga teaches at an all-black school in the South, but even here she feels different. Moving to Harlem and eventually to Denmark, she attempts to carve out a comfortable life and place for herself, but ends up back where she started, choosing emotional freedom that quickly translates into a narrow existence. Quicksand, Nella Larsen's powerful first novel, has intriguing autobiographical parallels and at the same time invokes the international dimension of African American culture of the 1920s. It also evocatively portrays the racial and gender restrictions that can mark a life. "Fine, thoughtful and courageous. It is, on the whole, the best piece of fiction that Negro America has produced since the heyday of [Charles] Chesnutt." (W. E. B. Du Bois)

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Book details

List price: $14.00
Copyright year: 2002
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 1/29/2002
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 192
Size: 5.00" wide x 7.50" long x 0.25" tall
Weight: 0.330
Language: English

Nella Larsen was associated with the Harlem Renaissance. She also worked as a librarian and a nurse in New York City, pursuing nursing after her brief, successful writing career until her death in 1964. Larsen's mother was Danish, and her father was West Indian; she used her experience as the child of middle-class parents in a mixed marriage to create characters in two novels who are stranded, caught between two cultures and unable to feel wholly at home in either. In each of Larsen's novels, the heroine suffers suffocating constrictions of her identity in both African American and white European culture. These crises in both Quicksand (1928) and Passing (1929) are further complicated by the heroine's quest for sexual as well as social identity, and both novels end without hopeful resolution. Both contain autobiographical elements, but Quicksand, the more successful, reproduced in fictional form many of the circumstances of Larsen's own early life. Although her work had been out of print for many years, she has recently been rediscovered.

Thadious M. Davis is Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought and professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania.

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