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African American Women Writers

Nella Larsen (1893-1964) Danish-African-American novelist, was born on 13 April 1891 in Chicago, Illinois. Larsen herself later claimed that she was born in 1893. Her mother, Mary Hanson Walker, was Danish whilst her father, Peter Walker, was either West Indian or African-American. Details of Larsen's life are both scant and misleading. Larsen herself wrote that her father died when she was two years old, adding, with characteristic reticence (and in the third person) that 'shortly afterward her mother married a man of her own race and nationality'. Other sources say that Larsen's parents separated shortly after her birth. Whatever the case, her mother married Peter Larsen who was presumably also Danish, and Nella Larsen took her surname from her stepfather. Part of Larsen's reticence, it has been argued, is due to her being the only black member of her immediate family. The critic Elizabeth Brown-Guillory claims that Larsen's stepfather 'viewed her as an embarrassment', and Larsen appears to have felt a keen sense of alienation from her immediate family, including both her mother and her half-sister. Thadious M. Davis in his book Nella Larsen: Novelist of the Harlem Renaissance: A Woman's Life Unveiled (1994) examines Larsen's guardedness about her life, and speculates as to whether Walker and Larsen might have been the same person.

Genre: Literary fiction; Psychological fiction

More about Nella Larsen at ProQuest One Literature

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