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Book Review: The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett: What do you think of when you hear the term racism? How does it make you feel when people are being discriminated against as an individual based on their skin color? So here I am reviewing a book that tells you about the story of two twin girls born in the society of racism which is The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett. Let’s see what more this book reveals.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett follows the life of twin sisters. Both are light-skinned dark girls and grew up together in a small black community. I ran away at the age of 16 and chose to live in two different worlds, one as black and one as white. Black woman marries a dark-skinned Black man and has a daughter whereas white one lives her life as white woman, also married a man, has a daughter, but her husband knows nothing about her past because she always hides her identity as a black woman. But as with many lies, the truths of the twins remain intertwined when their daughter’s storyline intersects in the story. 

The novel explores the interaction between class and race and highlights the racial issues and tension in the 1960s, which are still relevant today. The Vanishing half is a gripping emotional family story and a spectacular journey of race gender. And history kind of keeps enduring these racially and influencing people’s desires and expectations. 

Let’s jump up straight into the book and explore it as much as we can. Spoilers alert! There are not any spoilers ahead. I will only give you a brief synopsis of the book. So enjoy the journey of knowing about the book and what it shows.

General Overview of the Book The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett 

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett _ Book Review | Author Quotes

About the author 

Brit Bennett

Brit Bennett is an American writer who was born and raised in Oceanside, California, United States. She has done her Bachelor’s degree in English at Stanford University and earned her MFA in fiction at the University of Michigan. She also studied at Oxford University. Her essay has been featured in The New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, the Paris Review, and Jezebel. Her debut novel The mother was a New York Times bestseller. Her second novel, The Vanishing half, was also a New York bestseller. Further, it was chosen as a good morning America book club selection. Riverhead Books published the Vanishing half.

The Vanishing Half Overview 

The book The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett is a contemporary historical fiction novel published on 2 June 2020.

The Vanishing half was also selected as one of the New York Times’s ten best books of 2020. The novel touches so many different topics in the story: race, class, sexuality, the formation of identity, and identical twins. It covers their story over three decades. The story isn’t told through plot progression and is narrated in different periods and perspectives.

The book is set from the 1950s to the 1990s and is divided into five parts. The story engages with racism and sexism, about Desiree and Stella’s twin who grew up in a small southern black community in a tiny Louisiana town called Mallard. As children, they witnessed the murder of their father by a group of white, and this happening forever changed their lives and their family dynamics.

Is Vanishing Half a true story? Brit Bennett based her novel The Vanishing Half on loving mother homes where ” everyone was obsessed with color.” Her mother lives in Louisiana, once sharing her story from her childhood about a town where everyone is preoccupied with their skin color. 

Summary of The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett 

The story follows Desiree and Stella Vignes, born and raised in a small town in Mallard, Louisiana. Their great-great-grandfather created the small southern black community town, and the town was a complete place for light-skinned black people. Both the twins have creamy skin hazel eyes with wavy hair. They can’t save their father from some violent gang of white men as children. Nor were they able to save their mother from poor living her life cleaning rich white people in a neighboring town. 

Desiree feels annoyed with the colorist thinking of her small town intensely wants to escape. Finally, her twin sister Stella agrees to escape with her. At 16, Desiree and Stella ran away to New Orleans. Life has stopped in New Orleans. To find work as a secretary, Stella changed herself into a white woman and started to earn a higher wage, married Blake, a white man, and had a daughter. Her white husband knows nothing about her past and lives a life full of secrets and fears.

As life is starting to get better for both the ladies, Desiree finds a note from Stella as she has decided to become a full-time white woman. This means Stella is alone now moves to Washington, where she works as a fingerprint analyst for the government and eventually meets and marries a very dark-skinned black man and has a daughter. She married into an abusive relationship, so she decided to leave and then return to the small town where she swore she would never return. 

Since both things happen between Stella and Desiree, they do not speak to each other for years. However, they both have one daughter, cousins who meet each other and build some contact throughout the book. The reason why identical twins reunite after so many years and what will happen next when their own daughter’s storyline intersects in the book.

What to Learn from the Book? | The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

The Vanishing half Cover image
Source: amina’s Bookshelf

The book shows colorism at the forefront of the book amongst white and black people. The message behind which the book is race and racism. That is how people categorize others based on their skin color.

It also considers how race is categorized in both illogical and damaging ways. The book explores American history during the segregation times. 

The author wove the idea of racism in the story of twins identical sisters seems instructive for the readers. The book uses powerful lines about the characters as they face many issues related to their identity. They are not living their life as a victim. They live as they want, but to some extent, they have to hide their identity from the people.

My Thoughts on the Took The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett 

The book discusses race, how twins run away, and one sister lives her life as becoming a full-time white woman. It shows how much of our identity is based on a social environment. It also focuses on defining ourselves through something that doesn’t exist as humans or is not necessarily meaningful. Why do we allow things to influence us based on non-defined norms made by society?

Rating of the Book The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett 

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The book The Vanishing half by Brit Bennett deserves 4.5/5 stars from me.

Conclusion & Recommendations of the Book | The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

What are you waiting for if you want to know more about racism? Explore this book, as it will teach you something relevant. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves reading historical fiction, touching different topics like racism and shaping identity. I want to say love yourself as your color doesn’t matter. Happy reading!

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