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

Martha A. Sandweiss, Author . Penguin Press $27.95 (370p) ISBN 978-1-59420-200-1

Sandweiss (Print the Legend ) serves a delicious brew of public accomplishment and domestic intrigue in this dual biography of the geologist-explorer Clarence King (1842–1901) and Ada Copeland (c. 1861–1964), a “black, working-class woman” who was “born a slave.” Rendered as fiction, this true tale, would seem quite implausible—“a model son of Newport and one of the most admired scientists in America,” Clarence kept secret for 13 years his marriage to Ada and their apparently contented domestic life. He kept his patrician past and celebrated present concealed as well from his wife, who believed herself the wife of James Todd, a black Pullman porter. Sandweiss provides a fascinating account of King's “extraordinary double life as an eminent white scientist and a black workingman”; Ada's struggle “through the legal system to assert her rightful name, give her children their true familial history, and [unsuccessfully] claim the trust fund she believed to be hers”; and rich insights into the “distinctive American ideas about race” that allowed King to “pass the other way across the color line, claiming African ancestry when he had none at all.” (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 12/01/2008
Release date: 02/01/2009
Genre: Nonfiction
Compact Disc - 978-1-4001-4151-7
Paperback - 370 pages - 978-0-14-311686-8
Pre-Recorded Audio Player - 978-1-61574-892-1
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Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 320 pages - 978-1-4406-8612-2
MP3 CD - 978-1-4001-6151-5
Open Ebook - 320 pages - 978-1-4406-8611-5
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