This was first and far most, the book of the year. By that, I mean The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennet is the best book I’ve read so far in 2021.
It will be hard to top, but not impossible.
My one line summary of the story: a set of white twins who were raised black, go their separate ways.
Obviously that doesn’t do it justice, but stop for a minute and think about that. Have you ever heard of this? Please reach out to me if you have, because I’m so in love with this concept because it’s completely foreign to me.
Sure, I’ve heard of one race being adopted into a family of another race. I’ve also heard of mixed race couples, this is very common.
But imagine being one skin colour (white), and everyone in your family is the same skin colour (still white), but you were raised to believe that you were a different skin colour (black) – and everyone in your town believed it also.
Go back to the days of segregation and imagine trying to fit in. Which door would you enter? Which water fountain would you drink from? Which school would you attend? Where on the bus would you sit?
What happens when you leave your town? White people won’t know that you’re black. Black people won’t accept you as their own. You completely lose your identity.
The question becomes: how do you feel about this?
Maybe a fresh start is what you need.
The Vanishing Half Will Make You Think
The Vanishing Half starts in the small town of Mallard, many decades in the past. The founder of the town was a black man born to a white dad and a black mom. The white man didn’t care for his black son, and the mom was embarrassed that her son was too light.
He comes up with the idea to breed out the black, so each generation becomes lighter and lighter until there’s no black at all.
In his mind, this would put an end to racism. If you couldn’t tell the difference between a white person from a black family and a white person from a white family, you’d have to treat them the same.
The concept makes sense, except for the fact that labels never go away.
The Vanishing Half really begins with twins Desiree and Stella, descendants of the founder of Mallard, but it spans across generations.
Brit Bennett weaves in and out of time, touching on so many important topics: race, class, and transgenderism to name a few.
I followed along with multiple story lines, and wanted to know so much more. I really didn’t want this book to end.
To me, this concept was so unique, I became addicted to reading more, and although these story lines tie up nicely, I still found myself asking, “what happens next?”
It’s been a week since I finished The Vanishing Half, and I still find myself thinking about these characters and the challenges they faced.