The Vanishing Half
Finally–my first 5-star NEW book of 2020! No doubt you’ve heard of this one, and if you haven’t read it, I definitely recommend picking it up. Bennett tells the story of two Black twin sisters, raised in a small town where light skin is valued and sought after when building families. The two run to New Orleans as teens and then take very different life paths, only to be reunited decades later and forced to reckon with their choices.
Bennett hilariously responded to a Twitter prompt to “Describe your own novel in as boring a way as possible” with this: “Sister moves away, doesn’t call.” Those who’ve read it know this book is so much more, with intricately drawn, multi-generational characters exploring race, identity, and family.
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The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Many years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ storylines intersect?
Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person’s decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.