Wonders & Marvels most often profiles history and historical fiction on pre-1800 topics. But Martha A. Sandweiss’ Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line is just too good to pass up. And it’s always a treat to help spread the word about well-written books by fellow academics. (Sandweiss is a Professor of History at Princeton.)
Passing Strange tells the story of Clarence King who is best known for his work as a geologist and writer. But King had a secret–a big one. In order to marry the woman he loved, he lived a double life as a black man. Sandweiss’ book presents King’s work, love, and life, in the context of racial politics from the late 19th century into the 1960s. An extraordinary story told by a writer with a keen historical eye and deep respect for her subjects.
The New York Times ran not just one, but two reviews of the book. And if you’re still not convinced, you might take a peek at a third in the Washington Post, by Annette-Gordon Reed. If the reviewer’s name sounds familiar, it is. Reed is author of The Hemingses of Monticello.
Image: Clarence King, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Department of the Interior