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There's a long tradition of "passing" in American society. Originally this just meant passing as white when you have African American ancestry. But I remember (decades ago) hearing it applied to drag queens who could "pass as" women. Nowadays, it covers a wide variety of passing that involves race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion... even social class, exemplified fictionally by Eliza Doolittle, or (in the opposite direction) by Duck Dynasty. The recent case of Rachel Dolezal, a white woman passing as black, has been in the news lately. The book contains 15 narratives written by people who are (or have been) passing in one way or another, and all of them are worth reading.
I spent most of my own life passing as a heterosexual man. I was a bit surprised that none of the stories in the book involve this; perhaps the traditional male coming-of-age tale is all too common to be included here. We do encounter a couple of lesbians and transgender people. Most of the life stories involve ethnicity of various sorts. The stories are fascinating in their own right, especially the astonishing experiences of Brando Skyhorse, one of the co-editors. Perhaps the most significant thing is how the book shakes up your notions of what it means, exactly, to present yourself as a member of a particular category. What does it mean to "be" or to "pretend to be" someone or something. Lots of good reading and food for thought.
4.0 out of 5 starsThis collection of stories was fairly interesting - growing up ...
Reviewed in the United States on 12 June 2018
This collection of stories was fairly interesting - growing up jewish and passing as protestant in a white bread town is what piqued my interest in this book. Others have reviewed the stories similiarly to how I saw them; to me the book is a general reminder of human nature. It's not an American story, it's a collection of human stories. Whether we grow up in a small village of a few hundred or in a big multi-cultural city, we all want to fit in and conform to pressures. We color our hair, change our religion, wear clothes to project an image, and do a plethora of things to project to the world the image of ourselves that we want it to see. This is the same thing.
5.0 out of 5 starsPassing occurs on many levels in society. There is ...
Reviewed in the United States on 27 March 2018
Passing occurs on many levels in society. There is racial passing, gender passing, and sexual passing - many people have, out of necessity, had to pass as something they were not. This creates tension and in many ways can be dehumanizing. If you want to pass that is one thing, however many have felt they had no choice to function in society. Many of us who haven't had to pass take a lot of freedom for granted in some ways. We Wear the Mask excels at portraying these different reasons and it shines a light on a topic that many people in positions of privilege are not aware of.
3.0 out of 5 starsInteresting but uneven collection
Reviewed in the United States on 24 August 2017
I have read a lot of stories about passing, all of them stories about Black people passing (or failing to pass) as White.
I appreciated the wider scope of this book/these essays, and seeing how other forms of passing are/are not similar to the (generally mid-20th century) experiences of Black people who sought to pass for White.
That said, I found this to be a collection of VERY uneven quality: some contributions were excellent, and some were awful. Would better editing/writing assistance have helped? Yes, I think so.
3.0 out of 5 starsQuality of both writing and content is diverse
Reviewed in the United States on 28 August 2017
This book consists of articles/essays by different people writing about their personal journeys in a diverse world, and being diverse in some way themselves. The offerings vary widely, so to persevere as a reader, one has to keep a very open mind, and select. My rating of three stars is an Injustice to some, and a gift to others. That said, I learned a lot and do not regret the time spent thinking in the different terms put forth. One might be well served getting this one from a library.
3.0 out of 5 stars"If You Can't Win, Stop Playing . . . ."
Reviewed in the United States on 20 August 2017
"Passing" is traditionally a term about blacks passing as whites, but this book has stories about other types of "passing". In my opinion, it was an uneven collection, and, ironically, the only stories I found truly captivating were the ones about being black in a predominately white world. Trey Ellis' insightful essay was particularly notable because it also was particularly hilarious at times. For example, when he attended Phillips Academy Andover, he begged his father to buy him some Sperry Top-Siders, because: "These shoes would telepathically instruct the Kennedys to invite me to Hyannis Port for Thanksgiving." A 3-star rating, because there were too many stories I found uninteresting to give the book a 4 or 5-star rating.