Recommended Reads (August) – The Vanishing Half
For the month of August, Program Manger, Courtney Burgtorf read and reviewed The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett. Check it out below!
“Who would you be if you could choose how people see you and how you move through the world? Would you change everything? Would you remain exactly the same? How would these choices affect your life and those you love? These questions and themes of Race, Racism, Racial Passing, Colorism, Privilege, Identity, Duality, Family, and more are explored in Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half.
The Vanishing Half, published in 2020, is a historical fiction novel that follows the lives of twin sisters and their daughters. The story is told from the perspectives of the twins and their daughters and spans over decades, from the 1940s to the 1990s. Identical twin sisters Stella and Desiree grew up in a small Louisiana town in the 1940s. The small (fictional) town, Mallard, was founded by the girl’s great-great-great grandfather after he was freed by his own father from slavery. The town was conceived as a place for light-skinned Black families to live and work but grows exceedingly more prejudiced as its citizens’ skin lightens generation after generation. However, fair skin doesn’t save their father from a brutal lynching by white men from a neighboring town or their mother from living in poverty working as a maid for a prominent white family. After witnessing the brutal lynching of their father at a young age, the twins flee Mallard and start new lives in New Orleans at 16 years old. A year later, one twin abandons the other to live passing as a white woman and marries a white man while the other marries the “darkest man she could find.” They go on living their lives, one in secret, one in pain, never expecting to reconnect with the other.
Through multiple coincidences and happenstances, the twins’ lives come crashing back together due to their own daughters, Kennedy and Jude (one blonde haired, violet-eyed, and spoiled, striving to become an actress, the other “bluedark,” hard-working, and intelligent, working towards a career in medicine) meeting in Los Angeles years later. Ugly truths come to light. Secrets are revealed. Lives are changed.
Bennett’s writing sucks you in. It’s vivid, visceral, and keeps you turning page after page. It has you reflecting on your own identities and privileges, contemplating what life would be like if you weren’t born where you were born, to the family you were born to, and the choices you’ve made throughout life. The Vanishing Half was definitely one of the best books I read in 2020 and should be added to the top of everyone’s TBR.”
To purchase The Vanishing Half, click the link below.