Passing Strange

Passing Strange

A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line

Book - 2009
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"Passing Strange" is a uniquely American biography of Clarence King, who hid a secret from his Gilded Age cohorts and prominent family: for 13 years he lived a double life--as the celebrated white explorer, geologist, and writer King and as a black Pullman porter and steelworker named James Todd.
Publisher: New York : Penguin Press, 2009
ISBN: 9781594202001
Branch Call Number: 305.896 Sa57p
Characteristics: 370 p. : ill. ; 24 cm


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CRRL_MegRaymond Nov 10, 2017

The white Clarence King was a nineteenth-century scientist and scholar. The black Clarence King was a Pullman Porter. They were the same man.

Apr 02, 2015

I agree with hmcgivnerny, interesting and troubling. As I was reading it i was wondering is this guy narcissistic? sociopath? absent father, yes, compulsive liar, yes.
The historical view of division of the races right after the Civil War was interesting. And here we are, still divided.
Why would a friend lend him a million dollars knowing he would never get a penny back?
Why would his wife trust him and all his stories which could not ring true? Just because she was better off financially and had her own family? Maybe, life as a domestic and living in her aunt's apartment was not a good option but probably her best until he came along.
Interesting read.

Dec 04, 2012

Interesting and troubling story. It's really hard to know what in the heck was really going on, and the fact that the author speculates so much (because of lack of documentation) is less than ideal. The person with the most documentation is Clarence King, and I can't quite decide if he's a sociopath, or just a guy who was so scared to give up the privileges of his upper-class existence that he created an elaborate double life. It's also hard to reconcile the witty, loving, scientific genius that his friends describe with a man who would deceive the person he professes to love, live so far beyond his means that he borrowed the modern equivalent of millions of dollars from a friend, and who held such snobbish and patronizing ideas about those less fortunate than himself (his fascination with "slumming" is particularly vexing).


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