The Vanishing Half – 5 Star Review

“There were many ways to be alienated from someone, few to actually belong.”

-Brit Bennett, The Vanishing Half

Author Nic Stone said in an article recently “Don’t just read about racism – read stories about Black people living.” The Vanishing Half fits the bill and happened to be a book I selected for my June box through Book of the Month. This book sucked me in immediately and covers such important topics that revolve around the idea of someone trying to fit into a world that does not make space for them.

The Vanishing Half starts out by introducing us to twin girls, Stella and Desiree, who live in an extremely small town in Louisiana named Mallard in the 1950s. Desiree is the oldest and more dominant twin, while Stella was extremely studious and more of a rule-follower. The girls consider themselves Black but have a very light skin tone, one which could pass for white. Mallard was still deep in racial discourse and the girls witness a hate crime against their father. Stella and Desiree decide to start a new life for themselves by sneaking out of town one night, leaving their mother behind and moving to New Orleans. The girls begin to find a little bit of stability for themselves and Desiree wakes up one day to find a note from Stella. Stella has purposely left Desiree behind and vanished.

The book then fast-forwards a bit and we follow Desiree through her adulthood and her struggles with an abusive husband and we are introduced to her daughter, Jude. We then split POVS between Desiree, Jude (in her college years), and Stella. Stella follows the “greener grass” path and finds out that the life she thought would be better and worked so hard to create, created more problems for her personally in the long run. The book ends as the three paths (those of Desiree, Stella and Jude) finally converge. I will digress on the book summary because I don’t want to spoil any plot points but this book covers things such as domestic violence, introduces us to a transgender character (which I feel is practically unheard of for the time period, so that was very interesting), and follows how the twins end up going down completely separate paths in life.

This book is heartbreaking while also being a great voice to the injustices Black people endured during these times. They desperately just wanted to live in a world that kept pushing them back. Slavery had been abolished for quite some time yet Black people were still facing persecution and resistance simply for the color of their skin (and still are to this day, let’s be real). They wanted to hold jobs and have families and go to college for a good education, just like every white person was “entitled” to. It’s very sad to see that these trials the characters endured are still situations that are present in today’s world over 50 years later. We need to keep encouraging change, we need to read these stories so we can continue to educate ourselves on these subjects.

I would recommend this book to everyone. The writing flowed nicely, although there were a couple points where the location or time abruptly changed in the middle of the chapter so I had to do some back-reading to see the change and understand what was being talked about. I didn’t find it to be a big distraction, however. I love historical fiction that is outside of the “ever-present” WWII era in fictional novels. Diversify your reading, support POC authors! I think you’ll be glad you did.

*Review by Kelly*

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