The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

Brit Bennett can write.

She studied at Stanford, University of Michigan, and Oxford.

The Vanishing Half was #1 on the New York Times best-seller list June 2020.

But I read it as recommended for privileged white people trying to better understand the African American experience.


Spanning nearly half a century, from the 1940s to the 1990s, the novel focuses on twin sisters, Desiree and Stella Vignes, who were raised in Mallard, Louisiana, a (fictional) small town conceived of by their great-great-great grandfather — after being freed by the father who once owned him — as an exclusive place for light-skinned blacks like him.

“In Mallard, nobody married dark,” Bennett writes starkly.

Over time, its prejudices deepened as its population became lighter and lighter, “like a cup of coffee steadily diluted with cream.” The twins, with their “creamy skin, hazel eyes, wavy hair,” would have delighted the town’s founder.

Yet fair skin did not save their father, whose vicious lynching by a gang of white men marks the girls irrevocably.

Nor did it save their mother from an impoverished existence cleaning for rich white people in a neighboring town, and it won’t save the twins from an equally constricted life if they stay in Mallard.

We learn in the first few pages that at 16, Desiree and Stella ran off to New Orleans, two hours away, but “after a year, the twins scattered, their lives splitting as evenly as their shared egg.

Stella became white and Desiree married the darkest man she could find.” …

‘The Vanishing Half’ Counts The Terrible Costs Of Bigotry And Secrecy

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