Karen E. Quinones Miller
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Buy *Passin'* by Karen E. Quinones Miller online

Karen E. Quinones Miller
Grand Central Publishing
304 pages
February 2008
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Imagine a young African American woman with blond hair, blue eyes, and a skin complexion so fair that many people assume she’s white. This is Shanika Jenkins’ reality. With degree in hand from a historically black college, her next goal is to land the perfect job at a prestigious public relations firm in New York, where she’ll lead the life of a celebrity and shop at Madison Avenue boutiques.

Unfortunately, her dreams are derailed when she interviews for an intern position at a well-known company but is not offered the job. Shanika later learns that she was passed up for the position because she’s not dark enough—an interesting affirmative action twist.

This bit of information adds to her feeling of dejection and sends Shanika reeling. That’s when she decides to do something she never dreamed of—act as if she is a member of another race and pass for white. Since the firm has met its “black” quota, perhaps she can get a different position as a white candidate. Shanika Jenkins becomes Nicole Jenson, a transition that is simple to pull off because so many people assume she’s white anyway.

Just as planned, she lands the job as Nicole Jenson. However, as she takes on this new persona, meets new high society friends and wins the heart of a new African American boyfriend, her life becomes a bit trickier. As the story unfolds, she quickly learns that the grass is not always greener on the other side.

How long can she keep up the charade? Back at home in Michigan, her mother hopes she will end the deception soon. Her brother, to whom she’s always been close, has severed their relationship because he hates that she is denying her heritage and passing for something she’s not. Will they ever be close again?

It is evident that Karen E. Quinones Miller, an Essence bestselling author, Miller did extensive research to develop her main character and to delve into her reasoning, motives, and actions. While the concept of “passing” is not new and has been written about many times, Miller adds a modern spin and a few plot twists that make this novel enjoyable. The ending is somewhat predictable but does not detract from the overall story.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Joan Burke Stanford, 2008

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