The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

This is a historical fiction on the American history of passing. The term ‘passing’ has been used primarily in the United States to describe a person of color or of multiracial ancestry who assimilated into the white majority to escape the legal and social conventions of racial segregation and discrimination ( source – Wikipedia). The story describes the lives of the light-skinned African American Vignes twins Stella and Desiree from the 1950s to the 1990s, wherein one twin lives life as a black woman in a small nondescript town of Mallard with her mother while the other passes as white and chooses to live an uppity life built on lies and deceit. The non linear narrative also weaves in the stories of their daughters, Jude and Kennedy, who live lives as a black and white woman respectively until their chance encounter, whereupon their lives, racial identities, beliefs collide and consume their existence. Jude and Desiree’s longing to unite the family is a juxtaposition to the denial and unwillingness of Stella and Kennedy. As their worlds clash and coincide, the women must now decide and redefine their racial histories within their current existence.

The brilliance of this book is indescribable. Brit Bennett holds a master class with this poignant and subtle rendition on race, gender, economic inequality and privilege. I particularly loved the character of Reese, a trans man going through gender affirming surgery. The relationship between Reese and Jude is tender and intimate as they discover love, respect and kindness for each other.

The book which has won Goodreads choice award and long listed for National book award is a compassionate telling of onerous issues. The writing has a subtext of poetic melancholy. The words of Brit Bennett are so powerful, they can echo your hidden fears and prejudices and at times subsume differences.

“Gratitude only emphasized the depth of your lack, so she tried to hide it.”

“You could drown in two inches of water. Maybe grief was the same.”



Author: theshinydiaries

Being authentic; one day at a time!

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