Category Archives: Nella Larsen

wensday post  “How to date a brown girl (black girl, white girl, or halfie)” by Junot Diaz.

For this week post I will be discussing about the short reading we did in class “How to date a brown girl (black girl, white girl, or halfie)” by Junot Diaz.

The narrator in this text uses a very interesting narrative style. He uses “you” which makes it seem like he’s talking to the reader. The text is about him teaching you the reader, and even giving advice on how to date different type of women. He is very opinionated and judgmental of the different women he dates. He talk about how he prefer white girl over brown girl, which is very offensive to many people.

He uses the word “you” alot in the reading which in my opinion is trying to make the reader agree with what he’s saying, another word convincing you to think like him. He even depict the types of women for exam he said he prefer local women over outside women. He’s saying all the bad thing about the brown women but never mention the good thing about them. On the first page quoted  “If the girl’s local, don’t sweat it. She’ll flow over when she’s good and ready.” showing how he categorize different women. “If the girl’s from the Terrace stack the boxes
behind the milk. If she’s from the Park or Society Hill hide the cheese in the cabinet above the oven, way up where she’ll never see. ” this is another quote showing how he judge the women base on their background and where they come from.

It felt like the whole story was basically written on this author personal experience from what we discussed in the class today. I still didn’t like how much bad thing he said about color women. If I can connect this with something else we read in class it would be “Quicksand” by Nella Larsen, the reason why is because i feel like this author Junot Diaz could be one of those people who were criticizing Helga because she is mix race. But both story has the topic about the racism during the 1990. I didn’t like the story, I don’t agree with what he’s saying about brown women, and I would not support this author.

project 2

Linh Ngo

ENG 2001-D536

Prof. Rosen

Spring 2018

Project # 2


Dear Hathi Trust,


Helga Crane was always moving from one place to another throughout her whole life, in hope to search for satisfaction, and happiness. While reading the novel “Quicksand” Helga Crane migration to find her satisfaction, and happiness, is a symbolic to the Great Migration of six million African American during the 1916-1970. In the novel Helga move from Naxos to Chicago’s to New York, and even when she was in Copenhagen she was still unsatisfied. There were many reason to her unsatisfaction  living in these places.

While living in Naxos Helga find herself feeling so much anger and resentment, she hated the rules, and the school system, and she even said the Naxos is evil. Naxos is located in the south which can be refer to the Great Migration where most African American lived the south and migrated to the north due to economic problem, and segregation. Helga decided to leave Naxos she felt like it had grown into a machine. On page 9, Helga thoughts on Naxos was “It was now a show place in the black belt, exemplification of the white rain’s magnanimity, refutation of the black man’s inefficiency” which shows a huge sign of racism. In Naxos Helga felt powerless, she wanted a voice to speak out for her people, and even so the teacher or student wouldn’t dare to go against the naxos rules.

Helga decided to leave Naxos, and headed to Chicago and find work. On her trip to Chicago Helga had to travels by segregated train, and had to pay more than she need to just to have her privacy. This just show how poorly a biracial women like Helga was treated during the 1920. Even in Chicago it was hard for a mix race women like Helga to find a paying jobs. Although Chicago and New York Helga got to associate with middle class blacks, Helga still felt like she was not adopting the culture there. Goes to show that no matter where she went, she was always rejected by people and didn’t feel like she doesn’t belong there. These places did not give Helga satisfaction and the happiness she was searching for.

Migration plays a big part in the novel, as helga and many African American had migrated in search for a better life. On page 5, of the novel “Quicksand” written by Nella Larsen quoted “And he had dared any Northerner to .come south and after looking upon this great institution to say that the Southerner mistreated the Negro.” this statement was made by the “holy white man of god to the black folks” he’s claiming that Naxos is a place where African American are being treated well. According to my research on the great migration, six million African American living in the rural south, migrated to the city of the north. The migration was due to the unsatisfactory economic opportunities for jobs, and harsh segregation law.

Therefore the statement about the negro being well treated in naxos is not true at all. Naxos is a place where the negros would have to follow the rule of the whites, or get mistreated, this place is full of racism. According to the research on the Great Migration quoted “Southern blacks were forced to make their living working the land due to black codes and the sharecropping system, which offered little in the way of economic opportunity, especially after a boll weevil epidemic in 1898 caused massive crop damage across the South.” shows how poorly the African American were treated in the south.

glossary :



Outside Sources/ References:

Project 2: Color of Fashion

Duane Lawrence

ENG 2001-D536
Prof. Rosen

Mr. Charles Tanner

Hathi Trust Inc.

432 Park Avenue

New York, New York, 10022


Dear Mr. Tanner,


There is always a thought, emotion, or belief that influences someone’s words. While Helga Crane is waiting to meet with Dr. Anderson she looks outside and sees working women wearing a colors that are dull which she does not agree with. While looking at the working women a thought came to mind when a woman she have heard say that bright colors should not be worn by colored people. The color of clothing is important for Helga, and there is a contrast between the ones who want people of color to blend in and the ones that want people of color to stand out. Knowing background about fashion trends, African American women’s fashion choices, and how color has a ‘symbolic’/emotional reaction to others will help readers consider Helga’s dilemma with her appearance and of other colored people. The book was published in 1928, taking that into consideration, the type of fashion that women had will help visualize them during that time. Here is a photo that shows the types of clothes that women wore during the 1920’s:

 Fashion Trend[3]

It is seen that women wore skirts at least just at or below the knees with a blouse and a hat. But during the 1920’s was what is known as ‘The Harlem Renaissance’ which had a major impact on fashion especially women of color. According to “Fashion During the Harlem Renaissance” it says that colored women’s clothing “was designed to express grace and elegance…silk gloves…” This shows that colored women during the Harlem Renaissance had their own way of fashion that was influenced not only by the fashion trend but also by the movement of music and art from their own people to help make their clothes represent themselves. Having this fashion in mind it will be useful to know that when Helga referred to the clothing of the working women, she said ‘Drab’ which means a dull, lifeless, or faded appearance or quality. Drab colors being “mostly navy blue, black, brown,..” (Larsen, pg 38). Which is the opposite statement the woman from her past memory said, she believes colored people should wear those colors in general, working or not because it blends in with the color of the skin and does not ruin the visual pleasure. While according to “How Adding Bright Colors To Your Wardrobe Can Help You Beat The Winter Blues”, it says, “Research has shown that both yellow and green evoke positive emotions, for example, while black and gray are reminiscent of mourning, sadness and depression.” The woman is underlying that the color of African American skin reminds or fills her up with negativity and believes that if their skin makes them feel that way then they should not wear colors like yellow that makes them feel happiness, joyful, positive because it contradicts their emotions. Since they can not change the color of their skin then she believes that they should all match the color so when others like herself look then there is no confusion of emotions. Helga mentioned the word ‘luminous’ which means emitting or reflecting usually steady, suffused, or glowing light. With that being said Helga, on the other hand, saying that when colored people wear those colors then they are not showing off their complexion because it is being blended in with those colored clothing. They should wear bright clothing to show off the melanin that is in their skin and stand out to those around them to show off the color of their skin because it is in fact a beautiful sight for them to dress the way they feel best represents themselves and the culture and should not confine their appearance for others pleasure sake.



Duane Lawrence

Creative Writing Student



Work Cited

  1. Julia Brucculieri, “How Adding Bright Colors To Your Wardrobe Can Help You Beat The Winter Blues”, Nov. 2017, HUFFPOST

2. Kelsey Ruckle, “Fashion During the Harlem Renaissance”, Feb. 2014, Prezi

3. Stevie McGlinchey, “Brief History of Women’s Fashion – The 1920s –”, Jun. 2014, Glamourdaze Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved





Inefficiency – the quality or state of being inefficient

The word inefficiency which was found on page 9, it quoted  “It had grown into a machine. It was now a show place in the black belt, exemplification of the white rain’s magnanimity, refutation of the black man’s inefficiency” in this quote the word was used toward a black man which stated black man aren’t capable and useless, this just show racism in my opinion. This is saying that black man is not capable to do things, example work, or being successful in society.


Transitive verb

Satisfied – to carry out the terms of (something, such as a contract)

The word Satisfied was used on page 6 of  “Quicksand” by Nella Larsen, is a fitted word to use to describe my topic of  racism, because no matter where Helga goes she is still not accepted by people. In the novel the word was used in the quotes “And then he had spoken of contentment, embellishing his words with scriptural quotations and pointing out to them that it was their duty to be satisfied the estate to which they had been called, hewers of wood and drawers of water” this show that the negros or mix race should have been satisfied with how they are treated in society.


Insidiously (adverb) – awaiting a chance to entrap

“The incident left her profoundly disquieted. Her old unhappy questioning mood came again upon her, insidiously stealing away more of the contentment from her transformed existence.” (pg.113)

The characteristic of non-optimistic questioning appeared again as if it was waiting for the chance to come out and seize it’s moment. Which wounded up making her unhappy about her life.

Reacting to Axel Olsen

In the scene in Quicksand in which Axel Olsen proposes marriage to Helga Crane, she lets him know that she was aware of the less formal relationship he had hinted at. Re-read the following passages from Chapter 15 and respond here with a comment to one or more of the passages below:

P. 116:

She said coldly: “Because, Herr Olsen, in my country the men, of my race, at least, don’t make such suggestions to decent girls. And thinking that you were a gentleman, introduced to me by my aunt, I chose to think myself mistaken, to give you the benefit of the doubt.”

“Very commendable, my Helga–and wise. Now you have your reward. Now I offer you marriage.”

“Thanks,” she answered, “thanks awfully.”

“Yes…Yes, because I, poor artist that I am, cannot hold out against the deliberate lure of you. You disturb me. The longing for you does harm to my work. You creep into my brain and madden me,” and he kissed the small ivory hand. Quite decorously, Helga thought, for one so maddened that he was driven, against his inclination, to offer marriage.

P. 117:

“You know, Helga, you are a contradiction. You have been, I suspect, corrupted by the good Fru Dahl, which is perhaps as well. Who knows? You have the warm impulsive nature of the women of Africa, but, my lovely, you have, I fear, the soul of a prostitute. You sell yourself to the highest buyer. I should of course be happy that it is I. And I am.” He stopped, contemplating her, lost apparently, for the second, in pleasant thoughts of the future.

To Helga he seemed to be the most distant, the most unreal figure in the world. She suppressed a ridiculous impulse to laugh. The effort sobered her. Abruptly she was aware that in the end, in some way, she would pay for this hour. A quick brief fear ran through her, leaving in its wake a sense of impending calamity. She wondered if for this she would pay all that she’d had.

And, suddenly, she didn’t at all care. She said, lightly but firmly: “But you see, Herr Olsen, I’m not for sale. Not to you. Not to any white man. I don’t at all care to be owned. Even by you.

P. 118

But more gently, less indifferently, she said: “You see, I couldn’t marry a white man, I simply couldn’t. It isn’t just you, not just personal, you understand. It’s deeper, broader than that. It’s racial. Someday maybe you’ll be glad. We can’t tell, you know; if we were married, you might come to be ashamed of me, to hate me, to hate all dark people. My mother did that.”

“I have offered you marriage, Helga Crane, and you answer me with some strange talk kof race and shame. What nonsense is this?”

Helga let that pass because she couldn’t, she felt, explain. It would be too difficult, too mortifying. She had no words which could adequately, and without laceration to her pride, convey to him the pitfalls into which very easily they might step. “I might,” she said, “have considered it once–when I first came. But you, hoping for a more informal arrangement, waited too long, You missed the moment. I had time to think. now I couldn’t. Nothing is worth the risk. We might come to hate each other. I’ve been through it, or something like it. I know. I couldn’t do it. And I’m glad.”

Thinking further about annotations

As you work on your annotations, please share out topics you’re developing, sources you’re finding, inspiration, clarity, anything that can help. I know the project has been confusing, and I’m working to make it clearer because I think the reward is worth it (I don’t say that like Axel Olsen talks about the reward for Helga holding out for marriage!).

I found a book that’s writing about the depiction of the circus performance in Quicksand:

Afro-Nordic Landscapes: Equality and Race in Northern Europe edited by Michael McEachrane.

Edited to add: I requested this book from John Jay’s library and will bring it to class if it arrives by Wednesday!

Edited to add: interestingly, when I search through Google Scholar, I have access to more of the book! I was curious where the Hutchinson citation was, and found it in the footnote I didn’t have access to initially. Now I see that it’s the book In Search of Nella Larsen, which I have and can bring to campus tomorrow (Tuesday) and have in class on Wednesday.

I was struck by the language I saw when I looked at the song title, “Everybody Gives Me Good Advice”–it had the subtitle “comic coon song.” So I worked that into my Google search and found the book, which might give more info for anyone looking into the circus scene for their annotation.

I hope you’ll continue this discussion by sharing what you find with the class here in the comments.

Marriage in Quicksand

Last week, we discussed in groups each of Helga’s romantic interests.

James Vayle

Robert Anderson

Axel Olsen

Reverend Mr. Pleasant Green

What passages stand out in the novel as we think about each relationship?

What passages stand out about marriage in general?

What passages stand out about having children?

The New York Times published an article last month for Women’s History Month about women whose obituaries they did not publish at the time of their death but who now they would have memorialized; Nella Larsen was one of the women. Read the section of the article about her.