Sexual Passing and Sexual Signifying in Linda Villarosa's Passing for Black: A Study in the Evolution of the African American Romance Novel

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This study fills a gap in scholarship on the subject of sexual passing. It examines sexual passing in Linda Villarosa’s Passing for Black and argues that the blacks’ Christian tradition of homophobia necessitates sexual passing. It traces the emergence of a hybrid popular romance novel that places itself in the African American literary tradition while exploring sexual identity found in subgenre lesbian romances.


“Rita B. Dandridge’s study breaks new ground. It examines sexual passing and homophobia in the black church community against the backdrop of a history of racism in America…Dandridge’s critical study of sexual passing in this novel is significant because it illuminates the cause of sexual passing in the black church community as neither African American novels nor lesbian romances have done.” -Professor Freddy L. Thomas,
Department of Languages and Literature,
Virginia State University

“This work adds to the current academic conversation on identity by foregrounding the importance of race. As the author makes clear, a lesbian of color who is closeted and passes herself off as heterosexual experiences such “passing” in a way that is qualitatively different from the lesbian who is white, closeted, and passing as a straight woman.”
-Associate Professor Diann Baecker,
College of Humanities and Social Sciences,
Virginia State University

“In her close study of Villarosa’s novel, Dandridge provides a brief overview of historically significant narratives tracing the development of passing as a plot motive in African American literature from its origins as social and racial strategy to its deployment as sexual camouflage…she succinctly characterizes the novel as trespassing “on popular romance terrain as a lesbian romance while it breaches the racial register found in that genre.”
-Dr. Sabine H. Sieler,
Independent Scholar

"... is a meaning ful text for its in-depth look at Black women lesbians, an often overlooked demographic, and intra-racial discrimination. in extending the conversation to other lesbian romance novels (K.E. Lane's And Playing the Role of Herself), Dandridge further explores this important cross-section of identity-sexuality plus race-giving it the detailed attention it deserves." -Prof. Lemuel Berry, Jr., Executive Director, NAAAS & Affiliates

Table of Contents

Foreword by Freddy L. Thomas
Chapter 1
Sexual Passing and Black Christians’ Tradition of Homophobia
Racial History and Blacks’ Sexual Stigmatization
Black Christians’ Efforts to Overcome Stigma
Homophobia and Scriptural Interpretation
Homophobia Necessitates Sexual Passing
Chapter 2
Why Does Linda Villarosa’s Passing for Black Interrogate the Black Christians’ Tradition of Homophobia?
To Expose Intra-racial Divisiveness
To Educate Black Christians
Chapter 3
How Does Linda Villarosa’s Passing for Black Challenge Black Christians’ Tradition of Homophobia?
Thwarts a Black Mother’s Ability to Read Her Sexually Passing Daughter
Questions the Right of Christians to Judge Sexually Diverse Others
Demands Sexual Liberation as a Means to Self-Definition
Chapter 4
How Does Passing for Black Signify on the Passing Performance in Charles Chesnutt’s The House behind the Cedars?
Revises the Racial Passing Performance
Revises Structure
Revises Social Space
Revises Characters
Revises Meaning of the Cinderella Myth
Chapter 5
How Does Passing for Black Expand Sexual Passing Content in K.E. Lane’s And Playing the Role of Herself
It Broadens Ethnicity of the Sexual Passer
It Expands Intent of the Sexual Passing Performance
It Expands method of the Sexual Passing Performance
It Expands Outcome of Sexual Passing Performance

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