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Plum Bun: A Novel Without a Moral by Jessie…

Plum Bun: A Novel Without a Moral (1928)

by Jessie Redmon Fauset

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Written at the height of the Harlem Renaissance, this is one of those novels that isn't nearly as widely read as it should be. Fauset's novel is so readable as to often seem casual, but the heart of the story is a detailing of psychology related to racism, sexism, and the question/process of "passing". By focusing on a young African American girl who wants nothing more than to be a free woman and artist, Fauset tracks her young protragonist through Philadelphia and then New York with a constant eye toward the politics of her life. Because the focus of the novel is on the personal psychology of characters, as opposed to larger politics affecting society, the book and protagonist might come across as deceptively simple, or even selfish. Instead, the novel works to provide a picture of simple, and even realistic, survival.

In the end, Fauset's subtitle, "a novel without a moral", is both important and careful. As prolific and involved as Fauset was during the Harlem Renaissance, there's no question that this work is never without thought, but it is also incredibly engaging and readable, maybe so much so that its very readability has allowed it to be overlooked when we look back at the serious literature of its time. Plum Bun: A Novel WIthout a Moral is, though, a pointed critique of anyone who would attempt to call "passing" a simple matter of morality, pride, or confidence--it is a serious work of fiction, worth reading and considering, that sheds real light onto race and gender politics of the early twentieth century.

Simply, this may be a book you haven't heard of...but it shouldn't be.

Absolutely recommended. ( )
  whitewavedarling | Feb 24, 2014 |
In Jessie Redmon Fauset’s second published novel, Plum Bun: A Novel without a Moral (published 1928), one woman struggles to finding her own identity racially and sexually in New York City during the vibrant years of the Harlem Renaissance.

Artist Angela Murray is a light-skinned “coloured” woman in the transitional years of the late 1910s and 1920s. When she gets an opportunity, she leaves her home town in Philadelphia for a life of “passing” as a white person in New York City. The novel follows her subsequent life and choices, creating a complex portrait of her life in an era of conflicting identities. She struggles with her role as a woman, with her choices as a sexually free individual, and also with her challenges to come to terms with her race in a time of both intense racial discrimination and racial contentment in Harlem.

Plum Bun's narrative focuses rather intensely on Angela herself. Angela’s story is a coming-of-age story, and in many ways I found it satisfying as a whole because of the intense emotional components developed in the novel as Angela and her sister and their friends aged and experienced the consequences of their choices. Plum Bun is a wonderfully written and developed story that sits solidly in the historical context of the Harlem Renaissance but remains highly relevant to readers today.

More on my blog ( )
  rebeccareid | Feb 7, 2012 |
A novel about "passing" into white society - or really, out of black society. Interesting for its perspective. Boring as to its storytelling pespective. ( )
  gazzy | Mar 26, 2007 |
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“To Market, to Market

To buy a Plum Bun;

Home again, Home again,

Market is done.”

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Opal Street, as streets go, is no jewel of the first water.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0807009199, Paperback)

Written in 1929 at the height of the Harlem Renaissance by one of the movement's most important and prolific authors, Plum Bun is the story of Angela Murray, a young black girl who discovers she can pass for white. After the death of her parents, Angela moves to New York to escape the racism she believes is her only obstacle to opportunity. What she soon discovers is that being a woman has its own burdens that don't fade with the color of one's skin, and that love and marriage might not offer her salvation.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:55 -0400)

The story of a Angela Murray, a young black girl who discovers that passing for white brings its own problems in New York in the 1920s.

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An edition of this book was published by Beacon Press.

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