The Vanishing Half: A Review

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“The Vanishing Half” is a modern American classic. Period.

I finished “The Vanishing Half” by Brit Bennett, and I’m blown away at the writing, the story, the characters. All of it.

Bennett created a story that covers a difficult topic to explain [colorism and passing] in an incredibly consumable package.

Short synopsis: “The Vanishing Half” is a story of the Vignes sisters who dream of escaping their hometown, Mallard, Lousiana. The twins’ runaway during the Founder’s Day dance to New Orleans. Stella and Desiree Vignes find work in the big city, but soon one twin decides to live her life differently than anyone could’ve imagined. The twins, Black, who can pass for White, split, and live two very different experiences. They each marry and have one daughter, and as the years go on, the daughters grow more curious about their mothers’ past.

“The Vanishing Half” is an explosive book covering racial identity, racism–both covert and overt– multigenerational family secrets, and individual autonomy. What responsibility do people have to their culture vs. themselves? Are all secrets open for discussion?

Bennett is a gifted storyteller. Stella’s secret engulfs her entire life, yet there’s no conceivable way to be honest. You want to feel for her, but the abandonment of her sister supersedes that feeling. The decision Stella takes is a lifelong lie that we witness her struggle with the entire book.

The title was so appropriate, “The Vanishing Half.” One-half of the twins disappearing into whiteness, fading from an entire life, and shedding a whole identity.

Colorism, good ole’ faithful, is just as strong today as in 1954, the book’s start. This stupid, leftover of colonization, notion that lighter is better, that melanated persons should be ashamed of their skin. The closer to white, the better the life. I wanted Stella’s husband to find out, but of course, we don’t always get what we want.

“The Vanishing Half” is an absolute page-turner and one of my favorite books this year.

5 Stars.

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