By Nella Larsen
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Set primarily in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City in the 1920s, the story centers around the reunion of two childhood friends—Clare Kendry and Irene Redfield—and their increasing fascination with each other's lives. The story is told as a third person narrative from the perspective of Irene Redfield, a black woman with a European appearance, who receives an invitation to meet her old friend Claire. Clare's husband John (Jack) is not aware of her black ancestry as she attempt to pass as white for him. The title refers to the practice of "racial passing", and is a key element of the novel and a catalyst for the events that followed.