The ability to define their identity

analysis We grow up with the idea that a black man living in America cannot possibly choose to marry a white woman. The power dynamics between male and female make this impossible. A lot…

The ability to define their identity

analysis

We grow up with the idea that

a black man living in America cannot possibly choose to marry

a white woman. The power dynamics between male and female make this

impossible.

A lot of us have questioned

that assumption. As it turns out, the truth is, we

don’t know.

Black, white and shades of gray in superb ‘Passing’

by Danai Gurira

White. Black. Wonder Woman. Black Panther.

These are just some of the iconic images that have made the leap

from the screen and into our imagination. These are all women.

White women, black women, red, purple, white. All characters, in some way,

representing different identities in our world.

Danai Gurira’s latest novel, Passing, has been one of the most critically acclaimed reads

of 2018. By the time the book hit shelves, it was named the

Literary Journalist and Readers Choice Award winner.

Set in Congo between the wars of war and power – and a time when female identity is so fluid

that some soldiers embrace their feminine side – “Passing”

doesn’t shy away from exploring what it means to be a woman in the 18th century.

The power dynamics between male and female characters are examined in

addition to the gender politics of the time. In passing, two siblings –

one woman and one man – find their paths intertwined.

In boarding school, the sister only ever wears white. Under her

mortgage, the father of the brother is paying for their each day of

school, and his sense of competition for motherhood gives him one ticket

out.

It is a close family. Sister and brother are growing up together. But, it’s hard to feel like you have a chance to be loved when you are always ‘coming second’.

The man that the sister gives up for love. But, when he gives up love

for power, and never resents her for the fact that the sacrifice

slowed his own journey towards a world without blood ties, he

becomes the blood that ends up in his sister’s blood, unbeknownst

to the two of them.

And that blood begins to move. The two come to understand their power in the world. Despite the fact that the world is not quite

the same, but somehow has that same power to change. Both realize

their privilege, their importance in the world.

Although the characters have lived through struggles with power, gender

and other issues in the past, their everyday, mortal struggles are

just as complex.

Their lives become deeper, their aims are for many shades of grey,

except one can only figure out, as an actor, how to always play a

lead character.

Because audiences know that within her, there has to be some

feminine side. These are reasons why we love reading and watching

the stories of black women. These are reasons why their backstories and

gender identities remain the source of a great deal of discussion

and often frustration for those who don’t fully understand their

emotions.

The reason that we want to read is that we know these issues

are not confined to one family, or ethnicity. The questions that Gurira

says are in her novels are those that we all ask. But few write

about them.

Her candid reflections on gender, power and the role of the

feminine within the world is groundbreaking and has given her an

unparalleled platform in front of the camera and in the

writing room. She writes about life today, though her novels were

written for historical and fictional scenarios. They are also

about the essence of female identity today and what her generation

overlooks about identity in terms of both biology and gender

oppression.

Passing provides a glimpse into another side of the Black Women’s

Movement. Because we know that the impact of our work, influence and

history means a great deal to anyone who is important to us.

We recognize that work that is done by women in the Black communities is not

just about activism. As Gurira points out, the work is done to enable

others, to encourage us. That work is essential to building a bridge

and community that will prosper in the future.

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