This book is a must read, says our author Emilia. It deals with two twin sister losing and finding each other again, it deals with white passing, and touches on LGBTQIA+ topics.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett is a historical novel published by Riverhead Books in 2020. The story about the light-skinned Black twin sisters Desiree and Stella Vignes takes place in the 1950s through the 1980s. The twin girls have grown up as close as one can imagine, until they run away from their snobbish, light-skinned “colored” town. They start their new life in a new city together, until they each go their separate ways. They lose touch, and when years later Desiree flees from her abusive husband with her little daughter, Jude, to their hometown Mallard, she has not seen Stella for 15 years. Little does she know that Stella has constructed a new identity as a white woman and lives in a posh white suburb in Los Angeles.

The main topic of the book is passing for white, but it also deals with identity, transgender, race, and privileges.

In the beginning, when Desiree comes back to Mallard after having been gone many years, the reader knows very little about the circumstances and about what happened before. This makes the first pages catchy and interesting, but on the other hand also frustrating, as the reader has no idea where Stella is and what she has been doing since they both went their separate ways. It might take the reader a while to get into the story because the information is being delivered only piece by piece while reading. The many time jumps make it hard to get committed to the single scenes at first, but also create a lively and varied picture. Once the reader knows more about the characters, The Vanishing Half is a real page-turner. When Stella and her daughter, Kennedy, come into the picture, and the reader finally gets to know more about Stella’s life, her way into the white society, her fears of being revealed and her difficulties with her daughter, who does not know that she is Black, the book is hard to put down.

The great variety of themes on diversity makes Bennett’s novel special to read. If you are looking for a compelling novel dealing with our current topic Diversity, The Vanishing Half is compulsive reading!

by Emilia Grasme

Picture: Svenja Plannerer