That is what I looked like after finishing The Vanishing Half by Britt Bennett. Starting this post with this gif was the only way to begin this book review as The Vanishing Half is a hell of a book, a wild ride, and is a story and a half. Let's get into it.
The Vanishing Half takes place in the 1950s-1990s. It starts in 1950's Lousianna in a small town a few hours north of New Orleans. In this town, everyone is mixed-race black people with the goal of becoming lighter and lighter as time goes on. By the time the story takes place, individuals in town pretty much look like white people, the only reason they aren't considered white is because of the one-drop rule and having ancestors of color. The story is set around a set of twins Desiree and Stella. As teenagers, Desiree and Stella run away from the small town together set on starting a new life for themselves. But eventually, their stories separate, when Stella decides to "become white" and fully pass and live her life as a white woman and Desiree continues to live her life as a "colored woman." Their lives stay separate until, during the 1980s, Desire's dark daughter comes face to face with Stella's white one. What ensues is a wild ride of a delicious story that is hard to predict how it's going to end. As stated, this is a story and a half, and that's all I will say about the plot of the novel. This is a must-read for any big reader.
This is the type of book that forced me to a whole day and reflect on it before being able to write about it. There was nothing that I didn't like about this book. It was a wild ride. It was like reading a soap opera, and I loved that. But I liked how honest it was, and how it was a true reflection of life and the choices for black women during that time proud, especially the ones who were able to pass for white.
Overall I liked Desiree's storyline better, even though I felt bad for her daughter Jude. I think that Desiree had more personal growth than Stella did and her romance with Early Jones was as sweet as can be after the way she was abused by her first husband. Stella's storyline pissed me off a bit. Not because she passed or that she was keeping that intense secret. But the way she acted out against other black people. The self-hatred ran deep. The way that Stella's racism was talked about once she passed over, and when her neighborhood integrated, her actions did nothing but piss me off. I think that's why the story worked out so well because of how realistic intense the characters can make you feel.
I liked the relationship between Resse and Jude as well. Even though, I got annoyed by the way that Jude was described as "black as can be" over and over again. But I thought the relationship between those two was also sweet, and I liked that Resse was a transman. As far as Stella's daughter, Kennedy, strikes a clear balance of white privilege looks like. The way that their relationships compare and contrast. I liked the way that Jude and Kenndity eventually formed a relationship with each other as well.
This is a good book, and one for any and every avid reader. It was a good, well-written story and worth the read. Plus even better to promote a black woman author when the book is this good and delicious.
Zuhri's Final Thoughts
Star Rating: 5 stars
Reading Scenario: A Saturday afternoon in bed.
Book Club Recommendation: Yes!