Have you ever wanted to desperately acquire something you fancy? The real question is, would you lie to obtain it? I suspect some people would reply yes, and others would base their response on the lie’s significance. Honestly, my answer would be no, period. Why? Once you establish dishonesty, the deception must continue. Before you know it, you find yourself entangled in a web of falsehood, terrified and slightly paranoid that someone will discover the truth—what a waste of time and a lonely existence. Life is too short; embrace your authentic self and your imperfections – even though some of these “imperfections” are mistakenly placed and highlighted by society. These were my meditations while reading The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett.

The Vanishing Half is a multigenerational novel from the 1950s to 1990s narrated by many characters. The story centers around identical twin sisters, Desiree and Stella, who live in Mallard, Louisiana (a fictional place). The twins are descendants of the founder, who created a town established for light skin blacks. Through intermarrying, it is made sure that the residents are lighter than the previous generation.

Desiree is whimsical, restless, and outspoken, while Stella is reserved, practical, and conscientious. After a few traumatic events, the sisters run away at the age of 16, searching for a better life. Eventually, they separate, with one secretly passing as white. The book touches on colorism, domestic violence, family dynamics, gender, racism, sibling relationship, and white supremacy.

There were a few passages throughout the book that were thought-provoking. Here is one, “She hadn’t adopted a disguise or even a new name. She’d walked in a colored girl and left a white one. She had become white only because everyone thought she was”. I found this excerpt fascinating because it nicely illustrated that race is a social construct and not one of biology. Society has placed these constraints among us, and the institutions enforce the oppression to favor the privileged. As long as people are benefiting, the rest will remain suppressed. What a gloomy outlook and a defeating reality!

Even though this book was well-written and the premise intriguing, it was not my favorite read. The beginning was slow, and when I finally settled into the book, the ending fell flat, leaving me wanting more. I realize this is an unpopular opinion, and it was on The New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2020 list. However, it is not one of my 2020 recommended reads.

Did you read this book? What were your thoughts?

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