Sexual Passing and Sexual Signifying in Linda Villarosa's Passing for Black: A Study in the Evolution of the African American Romance Novel

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This study fills a gap in scholarship on the subject of sexual passing. It examines sexual passing in Linda Villarosa's Passing for Black and argues that the blacks' Christian tradition of homophobia necessitates sexual passing. It traces the emergence of a hybrid popular romance novel that places itself in the African American literary tradition while exploring sexual identity found in subgenre lesbian romances. Linda Villarosa's Passing for Black, a thinly-veiled autobiographical novel, builds on the African American literary tradition of passing in Charles Chesnutt's The House behind the Cedars and links to the sexual passing phenomenon in the popular romance genre evident in K.E. Lane's And Playing the Role of Herself. This study answers four overarching questions previously unexamined by critics: Why does Passing for Black interrogate the black Christians' tradition of homophobia that impels sexual passing? How does it challenge this tradition? How does it signify on the passing performance found in Charles Chesnutt's The House behind the Cedars? How does it expand on the passing performance found in K.E. Lane's lesbian novel And Playing the Role of Herself?