ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Britt Bennett is the bestselling, award-winning author of the critically acclaimed debut novel, The Mothers. She resides in Los Angeles, California. In 2014, Bennett wrote an essay about Jezebel, the Israeli queen, titled ‘I Don’t Know What to Do with Good White People’, while pursuing her master’s degree. The article received widespread recognition and was viewed over a million times within three days. The author also received a Hopwood Award in Graduate Short Fiction along with the Hurston/Wright Award for College Writers in 2014 while still studying at the Michigan University.
The Vanishing Half is Bennett’s second book. The novel went on to become a New York Times Bestseller and was labelled as one of The New York Times ten best books of 2020.
The Vanishing Half is the tale of two twin sisters, Stella and Desiree Vignes, in a fictional town of Mallard in Louisiana. The population of Mallard primarily consists of African Americans. In Mallard, being light-skinned is not just a prerequisite but also a major driving force for the residents.
The father of the twins dies due to a hate crime and, just like their mother, Adele, the twins soon find themselves working as maids for the wealthy whites. Not wanting to waste their lives doing menial jobs, the two flee from the town in search of freedom. However, the two sisters go separate ways with Stella continuing to lead a false life as a ‘white’ just so the society would accept her.
The story spans decades as the girls settle in their respective lives and start new families. However, a chance encounter reunites the two sisters and old wounds open up, leading to confirmations and confrontations.
WHAT WE LIKED ABOUT THE VANISHING HALF
Despite its fictional plot, The Vanishing Half beautifully examines the deep-rooted bias against people of color. It makes a genuine attempt at deciphering how and why these unfortunate beings go to extreme lengths to live a ‘white lie’. The author has dared to write about a sensitive topic, exercising utmost care and evoking just the right amount of emotion wherever necessary so that the readers can relate to the plight of the Vignes sisters in general and America’s Blacks in particular.
WHAT WE DID NOT LIKE ABOUT THE VANISHING HALF
The intersecting timelines and the ever-shifting POV could have been more streamlined.
You can escape a town, but you cannot escape blood. Somehow, the Vignes twins believed themselves capable of both.
In the dark, you could never be too black. In the dark, everyone was the same color.
People thought that being one of a kind made you special. No, it just made you lonely. What was special was belonging with someone else.
The Vanishing Half is completely worthy of a score of 4 stars. The way the author has addressed the twin issues of colorism and white-passing, both of which still remain a hot topic of discussion in the Black community, is simply awe-inspiring. It is a poignant comparison between the very distinct lives in which white and black America has subsisted through decades of imbalance.
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