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The Vanishing Half

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The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it's not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it's everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Many years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters' storylines intersect?

Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person's decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.

343 pages, Hardcover

First published June 2, 2020

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About the author

Brit Bennett

26 books10.4k followers
Born and raised in Southern California, Brit Bennett graduated from Stanford University and later earned her MFA in fiction at the University of Michigan, where she won a Hopwood Award in Graduate Short Fiction as well as the 2014 Hurston/Wright Award for College Writers. She is a National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 honoree, and her debut novel The Mothers was a New York Times bestseller. Her second novel The Vanishing Half was an instant #1 New York Times bestseller. Her essays have been featured in The New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, The Paris Review, and Jezebel.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 53,876 reviews
Profile Image for Christina.
309 reviews8 followers
February 16, 2021
Unpopular opinion. This book was just ok.

I loved the frenzy surrounding this book, and the gorgeous cover, and all the hype that went along with it, but to me, this book did not live up to its hype. It's too safe.

This book is a story of twin girls, who come from a very small town called Mallard. The town is so small you can't even find it on a map. However, this town is quite unique, in that each of the inhabitants of this black town are so light, that a passerby might mistake many of them for white. The twins though are itching to escape and make a life of their own after their mother basically cancels all of their future hopes and dreams by taking them out of school so that they can work and contribute money to the household. So when they flee their little town and head for the big city, they are able to see the world with eyes wide open, looking for a chance to spread their wings and fly and live how they have always wanted to live. Free. However, freedom comes with a price as they soon realize. The book attempts to share what the cost of freedom will be for these 2 twin girls from Mallard. We also learn about the daughters, cousins really, named Jude (Desiree's daughter) and Kennedy (Stella's daughter) and how the twins' decisions has affected the lives of their offspring.

From the beginning I feel this book just dragged on endlessly for no reason other than to stir up some drama. I felt like there were some really interesting topics that the author wanted to bring to light, but most of the topics all stopped short of really exploring those ideas. I feel like the author played it safe with this book because she never really uncovered any of the underlying reasons or hidden truths or exposed anyone to really get to the meat of the story.

Topics included in this book:
- Colorism and passing for white
- Classism
- Domestic Violence
- Identity issues
- Lying/hiding truths
- Self-esteem/self-confidence
- Racism/bigotry

I felt like the main purpose of this book was to tell a story about one of the twins vanishing and passing for white, which it somewhat told, but it didn't nearly scratch the surface to the pain it caused for Stella, for Desiree, for Adele, for Jude, for Kennedy. We don't get to see Stella really go through the fear and pain of passing for white or what it did to her individual life, we see some of the effects of how it affected her family somewhat, but not entirely. We don't get to see the great chasm it caused between her mother and those lost years. We don't know to what extent of the pain of the separation caused her to be away from her twin. We see glimpses, but it's never tapped into fully and it leaves you discontent and wanting more.

There are whole sections that talk about the daughters and how they eventually meet and how it affects the dynamics of the entire family, but even that part is somewhat nondescript and leaves you wanting more. The author skims the surface on really important topics and that was very frustrating for me to read.

We learn about Jude and her boyfriend Reece, who is a trans man, but we never really get to see more of that world. The topics of identity and LGBTQIA+ are very gray, fuzzy, and frustrating to say the least. The author is attempting to share how Reece is "passing" as a man, but that makes it somewhat weird, as if he's hiding something when the author has depicted Reece as someone who is sure of what he wants. I don't see Reece as having to hide in the closet of his sexuality, but the author appears to try and connect the "passing of white" as the same as "passing as a man" and I just did not agree with that combination. The life that Reece and Jude have seem very normal, almost too normal, compared to what many Trans persons actually share and explain how they are abused and disrespected, that this depiction of their perfect life doesn't realistically share what this community goes through when they make this life choice for themselves. The fallout. All of that was not in here.

There really was no plot twist, nothing to keep you captivated, just very predictable in the beginning and end. The middle had some interesting parts, but it also left out really meaty parts that could have made this book a banger. Essentially, there are no repercussions to passing for white, like there are no repercussions for white people doing what they do everyday in real life, they get to do what they want and get away with it for good, and that made this book somewhat of a long drawn out bore for me.

Cover is gorgeous though. Story, not so much. 3 stars.
Profile Image for Jessica Woodbury.
1,602 reviews2,041 followers
July 2, 2020
3.5 stars. I enjoy Bennett as a writer, but I felt like this book didn't come all the way together. I wanted it to either be a more focused book with half the plot or to really go big and have more about all the characters.

At first it feels like this book is going to be entirely about colorism and the strange town of Mallard, Louisiana where light-skinned Black people have effectively segregated themselves. The story begins here, with the story of twins Stella and Desiree, who grow up and then escape the town. Desiree returns after leaving her abusive husband with her dark-skinned daughter Jude. And at this point I thought this may be the real focus of the book. But then we seem to jump so quickly through time, which threw me somewhat off kilter. Desiree doesn't want to stay, but she does. And it is hard to understand why she stays knowing how unwelcome the town is for her daughter, but we gloss over it and start jumping ahead to when Jude finally leaves, moving into the other part of the story, set mostly in Southern California where Jude goes to college and then encounters long-lost Stella, who has cut off communication with her family and now passes for white.

Then we have another section of the story, filling out those years of Stella's life, and this was much of the best of the book. Stella, always so afraid of being found out, develops a strange and complicated friendship with a Black family that moves in across the street in their wealthy subdivision. We get to see why Stella passes but all the ways in which it has complicated her life and her own identity.

But then we push forward again, leaving just as a plot is really diving into what's interesting. The sections between cousins-but-also-strangers Kennedy and Jude are not as interesting as I wanted them to be, and didn't really dive very far into how different these women's lives are, race matters somewhat, but it's not clear what the daughters are here to tell us.

I also have to note that I was frustrated and concerned by Jude's plot, which mostly centers around her relationship with Reese, a trans man. Almost all of the elements around Reese and queerness felt vague and fuzzy when many other things were given to us in such detail. Reese passes as a cis man so easily that after several years everyone wonders why Reese and Jude are still unmarried. Equating passing as a trans person with racial passing makes me feel very uncomfortable. They are not things that can and should be compared. So I had my hackles up almost immediately when Reese entered the story. And for much of Jude's first section, we get the typical kind of Trans 101 you expect when the cis character is the focus of the story and the trans character is a kind of window dressing. I was also confused by many of the details around Jude and Reese's social life, where they are out with groups of gay men and going to drag shows in the 70's. It isn't impossible, but spaces for gay men haven't exactly been open and friendly to trans men, and it would be unusual for a trans man with a girlfriend to be in that kind of space. (Yes, queer people have often been terrible and exclusionary and sexist and racist and plenty of other things.) The drag, again, seems to hammer in this idea of taking on a new identity as recurring theme, but again I am not sure that it really works. It is nice that Jude is so accepting but she's so accepting and they face no real repercussions to their relationship that sometimes it seems to almost invalidate the difficulties a trans man and his partner would have faced at the time.

Without the queer issues, this would have still been a solid 4 stars for me, but I really couldn't get past it. Trans rep in fiction is certainly up, but there is so often this feeling that they aren't quite as fully real as other characters, that their trans-ness is there for some kind of message, and it really bothers me.

I did this book on audio and it probably didn't help that I didn't like the reader.
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,196 reviews40.6k followers
May 25, 2023
Congrats for its big win as the best historical fiction from Goodreads Choice Awards! At least this time the book I chose is a great winner! 🎈🎉🥂🥳

News flash: HBO and Brit Bennett made a 7 figure deal for the adaptation of the book into limited series!🎉🎈

Wowza! This is unique! This is impeccable! This is perfectly written and I wished it never ended, pushed myself to read it slower, rereading some chapters over and over! It’s phenomenal and one of the best readings of the year!

Welcome to Mallard/Louisa: small town can be hardly found ( or never found) on your maps: maybe you may accidentally find there during your unluckiest hitchhiking experience. A town has been founded by Alphonse Decuir, inherited acres of land from his father, making this place the home of people who are not accepted in the white community but also who reject to be treated like negroes. And in 1938 two little girls- identical twins: Stella and Desiree Vignes were born. Throughout the years they have been having hard times to find their places in the community, Desiree always told her sister she would find a way to get the hell of there. It’s not easy to relate in place where its people think if you have lighter skin, you may have better luck.

And when they are sixteen, their mother pushes them to leave school and work in a wealthy white people’s gorgeous mansion as cleaners. Stella starts yearning the rich people’s lives as Desiree dreams other possibilities they can have. When she watches Roman Holiday at the theater she dreams to be actress which makes her thing endless possibilities of outer world as soon as she escape from her prisoner life in the town.

And one day: they truly leave the town to go to New Orleans, only two hours away. But as you can imagine: running away from your home in your young ages without enough money and life experiment push the girls’ limits. They may take risks or go back to the place where they run. So both of them take different paths which result with different life patterns: Stella marries with a wealthy white man and has a girl who thinks she is white as Desiree chooses to end her relationship with her abusive husband and go back to Mallard 14 years later with her child and because of her child’s dark skin she is not welcomed by town’s people.

Even though I had some prejudged approach to Stella’s life choices, it was impossible not to ache for her as you witness her melancholy, loneliness, trying to living a lie.

Throughout 40 years, we witness twins’ lives and see how their daughters’ paths cross.

Normally I don’t like to read stories told by too many POVS which could be confusing and create unnecessary commotion in my head but this time hearing multiple voices and reading the incredible stories which are connected and completed each other like puzzle pieces were joyful reading experience for me.

This story is truly though-provoking, extremely emotional, soul crushing, realistic, shaking you to the core. This is one of the books stay with you forever. I truly enjoyed each chapter, characters and I highly recommend it to fiction, historical fiction genre lovers.

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Profile Image for Yun.
513 reviews19.8k followers
June 10, 2022
What a tour de force Bennett has achieved with The Vanishing Half. Brilliant and complex, this story surpassed all my expectations and more.

Twins Desiree and Stella couldn't wait to leave behind the small, black town they've grown up in. At sixteen, they finally seize their chance and run away. More than a decade later, the twins have lost touch with each other. One comes back to town with a black daughter, while the other lives across the country, passing for white while hiding her past. As time goes on, they and their respective daughters realize you can never quite cut the ties of the past.

This book touches upon so many worthy topics. The themes of race and racism captured in this book are among the most nuanced and insightful I have come across. At its core, racism is the opportunity for one group to make themselves feel better by acting out to oppress another. There is no group that is immune to being the oppressor, including those that are oppressed themselves. The way the light-skinned colored people of Mallard act towards dark-skinned people both captures the insidiousness of racism (racism only begets more racism) and its pervasiveness in society. I appreciate the book's honesty on this, no matter how disheartening it is to think about.

Another interesting theme captured over and over is whether someone can ever leave their past and heritage behind to make a clean start. The twins ran away thinking they could be the controller of their own destiny. But as they grow older and their paths diverge, it becomes apparent that their years growing up in Mallard continues to follow them. Even as they meet different opportunities and experiences, their past still contributes to shape their decisions and ultimately where they end up. It's possible to live separate lives through different decisions, as illustrated by the twins' dual contrasting paths, but they still remain within the parameters of their past.

The twins' daughters are also molded by their mothers, yet they are a new generation, the first to break through the confines of their mothers' past. The daughters could truly say they are making strides when it comes to racism, having been given increased opportunities, which allow them to become more open and accepting than their mothers (as racism begets more racism, opportunities beget less). Another interesting point is that one daughter grew up with privilege and wealth, while the other grew up wanting. Yet, through choices and motivations, the one who grew up with less arguably ended up with more. And that is an encouraging thought.

This story covers so much ground, both in terms of the strands of the twins' and their daughters' narratives, as well as its exploration of race, gender, identity, and belonging. The writing is beautiful and poignant, flowing smoothly along while guiding the reader from one insightful observation to another. What a powerful read, indeed.
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,962 reviews293k followers
January 13, 2021
That was the problem: you could never love two people the exact same way. Her blessing had been doomed from the beginning, her girls as impossible to please as jealous gods.

I can see now why everyone is raving about this book. The Vanishing Half has unforgettable characters, complex familial ties, long-lost sisters, tragedy, and romance. Very compelling (I was hooked straight away) and beautifully-written.

I think this book works so well because the author has very carefully and thoughtfully balanced out a deeply sad story about families torn apart and race-- and how different life could and can be for those able to pass as white --with stories of love and triumph. At the same time as my heart was aching for Desiree or Jude, I was smiling as Early found Desiree again, and rejoicing at the strength of the bond between Jude and Reese.

The story is about twin sisters, Desiree and Stella, who one day decide to run away from their small town and go to the city to find a new life for themselves. A few years later, Desiree comes back to her mother's house with a child in tow, while Stella disappears to who-knows-where to pursue a life passing as a white woman. Desiree never stops looking for her twin, her other half, even as life sets them on such completely different paths.

Spanning years and generations, the book follows first the twins and then their daughters.

There's a lot of nuance given to the exploration of race and colourism in this book. Stella is a fascinating character, nursing a lot of internalized anti-blackness as she plays this role of a white woman. Her own internalized racism stems from a horrific event she witnessed as a child, causing her to seek safety and freedom behind a shield of whiteness.

The different perspectives of the novel allow us as the reader to see Stella through an outsider's eyes-- as someone selfish and racist, who would abandon or betray others for her own sake --and also through her own eyes-- as someone terrified, desperate for a chance at something more than what life has dealt her.

A great book to read, think about, discuss, and then read again.
Profile Image for Kat.
263 reviews79.5k followers
July 12, 2022
Brit Bennett's intricate plot lines and ability to weave family dramas that stretch through years is definitely something to be admired. My only wish is that her characters would jump off the page a bit more rather than just remain vessels/outlines for her stories to play out through. However, I think this book deserves much of the hype it has received and the complex look it provides at race, identity, and motherhood (among other things) while remaining very accessible is truly where it's at.

New auto-read author? Methinks yes.
Profile Image for Cindy.
407 reviews112k followers
July 4, 2020
Although the first 1/3 of the book was slow, once we start to see how two generations diverge and they connect later on, I became invested in each person's individual journeys as they grappled with race, loneliness, colorism, abuse, motherhood, and a sense of identity. I enjoyed reading about these women and also adored the male side characters (Reese makes me so soft!) It’s a poignant and lovely story that takes you through several lifetimes with empathy and hope.
Profile Image for Roxane.
Author 121 books157k followers
November 10, 2020
Completely absorbing. Intricate prose. Deep characterization. Bennett exceeded my expectations with her second novel.
Profile Image for Jayme.
1,139 reviews1,879 followers
January 28, 2021

Two Black twins, so “light” they could “pass” for White.

And, this story exploring “ PASSING” - a term I was not familiar with.

One of the twins will choose to do just that-live life as a White woman.

Her husband will never know the truth.
She will not get to celebrate milestones with her twin sister or mother.
She will not be able to share her heritage with her own daughter.

I found this book to be profoundly SAD.

IMAGINE believing that it would be worth LOSING all of that, to be WHITE?

I enjoyed the first half of this book, when I learned about “Passing” and the story focused on the twin sisters..Desiree and Stella.

The second half was not as strong for me, when the story shifted to their daughters, Jude and Kennedy, and the focus of race and “passing” became diluted with another theme, regarding a character named Reese.

I understand it was another way to explore “Identity”.

But, the book would’ve been more powerful for ME if the narratives had remained with the sisters-I wanted to spend more time with Desiree after she returned home-

So we could see both her struggles and also the riches that she DID have-
by having Adele, Jude, Early and the community of Mallard in her life.

So that we could compare, and contrast, their two choices in more depth.
To fully explore “PASSING”.

I needed to feel more of the PAIN (of EACH sister) that resulted from Stella’s choice..

As I wondered how many women who chose to PASS, would choose that path again?


Available now!!

Thank you to the publisher for providing a digital ARC through Edelweiss in exchange for a candid review!
Profile Image for andreea. .
542 reviews529 followers
August 30, 2020
I went into this book with high expectations, considering that I hadn’t seen one single negative review; everyone loved it and found it important and was mind-blown by the quality of the writing.
But then I read it myself and found, instead, just a story told at the speed of light as the author jumps in time and doesn't tie any end to any of her characters’ life chapters, as well as a plethora of characters out of whom none experience any in-depth analysis or development. I will put it simply:

what I liked about the book

- clearly enough, the subject matter.
White passing is a relatively new theme in contemporary novels (as far as I’m concerned), and I think Bennett did a good job at highlighting the issue. However, I found it that it was only well-presented and analysed in the beginning, when we see the differences in perception of the two sisters. These differences between them were always painstakingly parallel to one another: one marries a dark-skinned man, the other does the opposite; one ends up running away from an abusive companion and finds love with a man she refuses to marry, the other happily marries and finds understanding in spite of her odd behaviour; one comes back to her childhood village and rejoices in a simple life as a bartendress, the other lives a wealthy life in a wealthy district.
In the latter parts of the novel, I wished to see more of Stella’s own viewpoint and motives. She remained reluctant and confused throughout the narrative, as we are revealed (as with all the other characters) only some heads up information that would allow us to continue reading. The main idea that you get about why Stella chooses to become white is because she can, and because it offers her a chance at a life that she deems ideal. But until the end, these problematic ideals are not dealt with. When the two sisters finally find each other again, Desiree quickly forgives Stella (I know they are sisters and have some kind of bond, and blood is thicker than water, and all that stuff about family being the most important, but Stella dismissed Desiree and left her behind for so many years, only to come back with the sole motive of begging her sister to talk down Jude into leaving Kennedy alone).

I don’t have a term of comparison for the theme of white passing (I do plan on reading Nella Larsen’s Passing). But I did not enjoy the fact that the theme is not fully exploited. I sincerely think this is not a case of a white person wishing to be given all these sides of a problem on a plate. But I do not think Stella’s motives were exploited much beyond her childhood realization that she could pass for white, and her deep fears of being caught in the act. I enjoyed certain scenes that showed how guilty she felt, and her impostor syndrome, but I somehow still wanted a more in depth view, which may have been easier to achieve from a first person narrative.

what I did NOT like

- the style and the lack of character development
The characters were uni-dimensional, I felt them as strangers until the end. The few bits about their inner life were played down, and sometimes you were even given information that would not help you in any way throughout the story. Equally, the characters only had one or two traits that defined them throughout the whole book, and some of them did not even act like actual people, only tools for someone else’s ‘arc’. Stella was a liar with a very confused behaviour. Desiree was an uplifting woman that had her own emotional issues. Here, we don’t know much about Early, because he is only in the story to bring some happiness into Desiree’s life. Jude was a stubborn smart girl, who is present only to discover Stella and to tell Kennedy the truth about her family. Kennedy was a spoiled and rebellious girl and we know she is a talented actress, too. Audrey is just killed off in the end.

- the abrupt time jumps. Every 2-3 chapters or so, the narrative would jump ahead 10 years or so in time. There was no linearity, as the author only wanted you to know this nice emotional story, but would not care to fill you in on what went on behind the curtain, what the characters really FELT.

- the happy coincidences. The story is full to the brim with them. Characters manage to magically meet each other, in spite of how unrealistic that is (take Early’s fortunate meeting with the girl he fell in love with as a little boy, and Jude meeting Kennedy, among others). I know things like these happen in books, but they rather happen in fairytales or rom-coms or children’s books, hardly in books nominated for literary awards, I would say?

- Reese and the lack of trans awareness. There is a trans character in this book and we do not get much from him besides being shown his insecurities and his wish to have a surgery. He is a tool used for debating Jude’s romantic life and her fears of entering an abusive relationship like that of her mother’s. Reese is a ticked box for LGBTQ+ diversity. We don’t even see him talk too often, besides the moments when he is a good boyfriend to Jude.

Before the end of this, I should mention that my antipathy towards the style of this book may be a subjective thing. I am usually into first-person narratives or stream of consciousness novels, where I am given a full spectrum of a character’s inner world. I don’t usually read books that only tell stories and jump from one character to another and I always expect some character development or for the book to dwell on feelings, thoughts, hidden motives, allowing the reader to have his own opinion, and not being served a cardboard character on a plate.

Lastly, I am white. I understand that my perception of this book may come from a place of privilege, of being given a story of four Black women whose experience I cannot fully grasp, as my own has been and will always be completely different. I have checked myself for all of the flaws I found in the book and do not consider they have to do with a racial bias, but rather with the way the story is told. There is an analysis of racial identity that helped me better understand the issue, and I am glad I read the book. However, I did not fully engage with the story and I do see why the book is popular. I just think it is a little bit overhyped.
Profile Image for Chelsea Humphrey.
1,439 reviews78.1k followers
June 17, 2020
I'm not sure I have words for how excellent this book turned out to be, but terms such as "breathtaking, poignant, and ultimately hopeful" come to mind. I was constantly reminded of the golden oldie movie Imitation of Life (1959) in regards to the discussions surround race, class, and gender, while also featuring a plot thread where a light skinned Black teenager is living her life passing as white. If you are wary of the hype, like I typically am, please know this is one instance where the substantial amount of praise is fully warranted, and I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a story that is equal parts educational and entertaining.
Profile Image for emma.
1,823 reviews48.2k followers
May 11, 2023
Everyone on earth spent the entirety of 2020 telling everyone else that this book is excellent and brilliant and a must read, and then I showed up deeply and profoundly late to the party only to say the same thing.

And in case you needed one more person telling you the same thing to push you over the edge - this is truly good stuff.

I took a while to warm up to it, but basically reading this book is suddenly being adopted into a family and at first you're like "??? what is this what is happening and why should I care," but once you settle in and allow everyone and everything to grow on you...boom.

Then this cast of characters is a set of loved ones to you, and you feel their pain and are invested in their stories, and it's wonderful.

And very sad. Obviously.

Like life or whatever...I don't know. Insert some powerful truism or trite cliché or other fitting expression here.

Bottom line: All I have to say is what everyone else did: good things!


finishing this felt like saying goodbye to my family.

review to come / 4.5 stars

currently-reading updates

my favorite way to feel stupid is by highly anticipating a book forever but not picking it up and then not being able to put it down when i finally do
Profile Image for Lisa of Troy.
401 reviews3,495 followers
May 29, 2023
Technically I would rate this 3.5 stars.

This story is primarily centered on a set of twins born in Mallard, Louisiana. The twins run away from home to make it big in the city when one of the twins runs off and begins her life as a white person while the other twin goes through life as a black person. This story follows this set of twins through life as well as their daughters.

This book touched on some very deep issues: race, generations, transsexuality which was refreshing because I have not read a tremendous amount of books on theses issues. In many ways it is a high-quality retelling of Passing by Nella Larsen. That being said the pacing of this book was OFF. In the first 100 pages, it seemed slow. I saw Read With Cindy's Review where she said the first 1/3 of the book was slow but it picked up. Because she is really honest (trust me on this or go watch her videos), I had confidence in her. It did get better, but I still would not classify this as a page turner. The ending was entirely predictable.

2023 Reading Schedule
Jan Alice in Wonderland
Feb Notes from a Small Island
Mar Cloud Atlas
Apr On the Road
May The Color Purple
Jun Bleak House
Jul Bridget Jones’s Diary
Aug Anna Karenina
Sep The Secret History
Oct Brave New World
Nov A Confederacy of Dunces
Dec The Count of Monte Cristo

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Profile Image for karen.
3,978 reviews170k followers
December 9, 2020
oooh, goodreads choice awards finalist for best historical fiction 2020! what will happen?


CONGRATULATIONS, WINNER! goodreads choice awards best HISTORICAL FICTION 2020!

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

i know it looks like i’m over here five-starring a lot of books in a row all of a sudden, but it’s not so much that i’ve lucked into a run of excellent reading choices as it is me finally sitting down to review books so good it's been intimidating me to even think about reviewing them.

ALTHOUGH—if we’re being super-duper honest, Blacktop Wasteland and Betty were both 4s going in (but 4.5s in my heart) that got bumped up to fives when rereading them for the review made me remember how dingdang good they were. this one was a five out of the gate.

it’s so good i don’t even know where to start. it’s a family saga that takes place over the course of forty or so years, beginning in 1938 with the birth of twin sisters stella and desiree vignes in the town of mallard, louisiana; a black community with an unusual beginning:

The idea arrived to Alphonse Decuir in 1848, as he stood in the sugarcane fields he’d inherited from the father who’d once owned him. The father now dead, the now-freed son wished to build something on those acres of land that would last for centuries to come. A town for men like him, who would never be accepted as white but refused to be treated like Negroes. A third place.

the residents embraced their founder’s dream of a more perfect Negro. Each generation lighter than the one before, and by the time the vignes girls—his great-great-great-granddaughters—are born, his bloodline has been bleached into “creamy skin, hazel eyes, [and] wavy hair," none of which attributes protect them from racism; from seeing their father lynched in their home when they are little girls, or from race factoring into their lives and shaping their opportunities when they run away from home as teenagers.

they live together in new orleans for a few years before stella abruptly cuts ties with her sister and disappears into a new life that she will live as a white woman—marrying a wealthy white man and raising a daughter who has no idea she's anything but white. meanwhile, desiree will leave the abusive father of her own daughter and move back to mallard, her child's exceptional darkness there unexpected, unwelcome.

eventually, three generations of paths will cross, secrets will be discovered, everyone'll have to address their choices.

honestly, i don’t want to blah and blah about plot—i always spend way too much time on silly reviews, writing 20-page dissertations on minutiae that nobody cares about but meeeee before deleting all of it anyway and i need to stop being foolish with my time and learn to do things in miniaturized efficiency when i’m not getting paid.

but i will say that this is a tremendous second novel after a really impressive debut and bennett writes beautifully about family and grief and identity and being deeply, unbearably lonely—the loneliness of the estranged twins, the self-othering loneliness isolating stella from her old life and in her new one, the loneliness of growing up dark in a colorstruck town etc etc. i'm doing it again so i'm gonna shut myself up now because i loved every little bit of this novel and we could be here all day if i don't put a stop to it now.


The Mothers was good, this one is GOLD.

review to come ASAP.


my SECOND goodreads-win of 2020!!

this is the only good thing in the world right now.

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Meredith (Slowly Catching Up).
793 reviews12.3k followers
June 18, 2020
“She was always inventing her life.”

Twin sisters. Two different paths: One chooses black. The other white. Their choices reflect societal norms, gender constructs, and racial inequality in contemporary America.

Stella and Desiree grow up in Mallard, LA. Mallard, a town comprised of light-skinned black people, has a fascinating history. I could read a whole book just about Mallard. When the sisters run away to New Orleans, they see their escape as a time to reinvent themselves: "Stella became white and Desiree married the darkest man she could find."

Stella chooses to pass as white. Her choice allows her to live a life filled with opportunity and privilege. At the same time, she is without her family. She is perpetually uncomfortable and is teetering on the edge of someone finding out her secret, so she makes the effort to bury her true self and live a life built on fragile lies. Most significantly, she chooses a life without her other half, her sister.

Desiree’s choices result in her being stuck; stuck in a town she can’t leave, without a career, without a life. Nearly broken from her sister’s choice to leave her, she never gives up hope of finding Stella until it’s nearly too late.

Through Stella and Desiree’s choices, Bennett juxtaposes race, gender, class, and sexuality. Bennett doesn’t simplify the outcomes of Stella and Desiree’s choices, rather she complicates them to expose the convoluted hierarchies of American culture and society.

The Vanishing Half is a thought-provoking, complex, and timely read. I was entranced by Desiree and Stella’s stories, and I know I will be thinking about these characters for a long time.

I received an ARC of this book from Edelweiss and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Angela M .
1,285 reviews2,205 followers
April 28, 2020
This is a thought provoking story and a few scenes were not easy to read. There’s racism here, a violent incident against a man, witnessed by his young twin daughters, and more trauma for one of the girls than we want to imagine. This and their upbringing in a small black community in Louisiana where people believe the lighter they are the better life will be. So it wasn’t a surprise that when twin sisters Desiree and Stella Vignes run away at sixteen, that their futures would take them on journeys seeking their identities. Although inseparable as young girls, they part ways and their chosen lives take very different paths. While it’s easy to connect with Desiree and the choices she makes, it’s not very easy to accept how Stella has chosen to live a lie and was most of the time unlikable. Yet, I was still drawn to her and felt for her, trying to understand her more.

While racial identity is the core of the story, there are so many other layers here with characters that the author portrays in such a way that I got a sense of who they were, even if at times they questioned their own identities. The story is told from multiple points of view - the sisters Desiree and Stella and later their daughters, Jude and Kennedy, each of them searching it seemed, to find their true selves. It’s about different kinds of relationships between sisters, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, women and the men in their lives, cousins who find each other. There are other elements to the story such as spousal abuse and sexual identity. Almost all of the characters found a way to my heart. I found this to be such a well written story that captivated me from the first page and made me want to get to Britt Bennett’s debut novel The Mothers, which has been on my list.

As always I’m grateful to read along with Diane and Esil. I love our discussions and sharing our perspectives .

I received an advanced copy of this book from Riverhead/Penguin through EdelweissZ
Profile Image for MarilynW.
1,109 reviews2,798 followers
December 8, 2020
Winner of Best Historical Fiction in the 2020 Goodreads Choice Awards

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett features black twin sisters, whose skin is so light that they can pass for white. The sisters have always been close, almost like one person, even though they are so different, in personalities. When they are sixteen, they escape their small Louisiana town, to make new lives in New Orleans. At some point, Stella is able to get a job working for a white man and she envisions real freedom, if she abandons everything about her past and passes as a white person. Her sister Desiree is stunned and heartbroken that her sister would walk out on her and everything they have been for each other, their entire lives. 

This story follows Stella, passing as a white woman, wife of a wealthy white man, mother of a blond headed daughter. Once Stella walks away from her birth family, she can never speak about them or contact them again, because her entire life is a lie. Although she now has so many freedoms that were not hers as a black person, she has sacrificed the family and the past that she left. This freedom that she has gained is also a kind of prison and a weight on her shoulders that can never be lifted. 

The story also follows Desiree, who eventually marries a black lawyer and has a very dark skinned black daughter. Her husband is abusive and at some point Desiree must flee with her daughter, back to Mallard and her family home. Back to the home where she grew up in poverty, possessing barely more than the clothes on their backs and no money. The contrast between Stella's path and Desiree's path could not be more glaring. 

Over the decades we get to see how the choices of Stella and Desiree affect the people around them...their daughters, the men in their lives, their neighbors, friends, and family. I enjoyed the story of Stella and Desiree and also the stories of their daughters and how they dealt with their hopes, dreams, mistakes, and the consequences of their actions. I was so drawn to some of the characters and wish I could name them but I don't want to spoil the story. There are men in this story that are weak in their destructiveness but there are men in this story that are strong with their compassion and loyalty. I think the men made the story for me, as much as the women did. 

Thank you to Riverhead Books/Penguin Publishing Group and Edelweiss for this ARC. 
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,004 reviews36k followers
June 4, 2020
Sooooo GOOD!!!

...Pathos and Pain....
...Profound Thoughtfulness...
...Spellbinding prose....
...Surprises I never saw coming...
...A book that kept me interested and curious from start to finish...
...Filled with substantial depth and insights.

Brit Bennett brings to life characters that made me desperately want to vanish into the her storytelling world.

Meet twin sisters, Desiree and Stella Vignes. They grew up in a Black Community - a town so small - it couldn’t be found on a map: Mallard, Louisiana.
At age 16 they ran away together to New Orleans....

A fascinating tale begins .....dealing with identity, racism, choices!
That’s all I’m saying!

A wonderful novel to Go in Blind!!!

There is nothing not to like about this book.
It promises to tickle your interest bones!!!

Highly recommended - great book club pick!

It’s irresistible!

*Brit Bennett’s first novel, “The Mother’s” was wonderful....received much recognition....a terrific enjoyable book, too....
This 2nd book, “The Vanishing Act”...is even better!

Congrats to Brit. She outdid herself.

Profile Image for Bookishrealm.
1,909 reviews4,792 followers
June 29, 2020
Soooo...first I gave this book 4.5 stars. I have no idea where to even begin with my review.

The Vanishing Half is such a complex and timely novel. Colorism and being "white passing" has been and still remains a hot topic of discussion in the Black community. Brit Bennett brings both of these conversations to the forefront in a interesting way. The novel focuses on twins, Desiree and Stella, who grow up in a small town where they are forced to quit school at the age of 16 to help provide an income for their family. Unable to take the burden placed on them by their mother, the girls decide to leave for New Orleans. It's there that each decides to take a new path with their life. Desiree ends up marrying a dark skin man and having a daughter, while Stella decides to pass as white and marry a white man.

The psychology behind the assumptions and stereotypes placed on both narratives is rather intriguing. What I found most unique was the internalized hatred and racism that Black characters had for other Black characters based on how dark their skin was. Dark skin Black individuals are characterized as lazy and problematic while those that were lighter are treated with higher regard. In real life, a lot of those assumptions, thoughts, and feelings still linger. It was particularly interesting to see the advantages that Stella received once she was able to build her life around the lie that she was white. As much as it hurt me to see how much she hated her own blackness, I couldn't help but wonder how stressful and painful it was for her to pretend to be White and give up everything and everyone she loved. The amount of work it even took for Stella to maintain this lie throughout the novel made me exhausted. In comparison, Desiree lived a much simpler life; however, her daughter struggled with her identity as a child, teen, and adult because she was of a darker complexion. She had insecurities not only about the way she look, but also her self-worth. There were quite a few times where she continuously questions whether she is worthy of love.

The characterization and addition of Jude (Desiree's daughter) and Kennedy (Stella's daughter) made the novel even more interesting. Their comparison of their lives made me wonder if Bennett was attempting to say that owning one's Blackness isn't as unfortunate as some would like to paint it to be. I'm usually weary of one books attempt to address so many different perspectives over a large expanse of time, but of course Bennett was able to beautifully weave in each story without losing my attention or interest. The amount of topics that she was able to address in such a short period of time just sang to my soul. I've read her first book The Mothers, but now I know I need to pick it up again and buy a physical copy of this one.

I would say that everyone needs to read this book. It is such an important insight to such an important series of topics and Bennett, as always, handles each with such care. This is definitely going down as one of my favorite books of 2020. I did take off half a star because the ending wasn't what I was expecting or what I necessarily wanted. Other than that, this book is phenomenal!
Profile Image for jessica.
2,533 reviews32.4k followers
November 26, 2021
not going to lie - it took me awhile to really warm up to this story. and honestly, im not sure i really did.

i could immediately appreciate the heart of it, but goodness me. nonlinear narratives and 25+ page chapters are the bane of my existence. so i was worried that i might not be able to push through this, even with the lovely writing and important content.

like i said, there are so many great themes throughout this book and its honestly no surprise why so many readers have connected with this story. i just wish personal writing preferences hadnt prevented me from enjoying this more.

definitely a case of “it me, not you.”

3.5 stars
Profile Image for Danielle.
806 reviews400 followers
February 11, 2021
2020 F.A.B. Bookclub pick # I.❤️. F.A.B.

I was excited that this was our bookclub pick for this month. 🤗 I’ve read so many fabulous reviews about the important messages this book has to offer. It tells a story of a set of twins, who runaway at 16. They take two different paths in life. Not giving much away- it was a great read. 👍I’d say I enjoyed the first half of the book more than the second half. The messages are definitely good: Family is family, acceptance of who you are is important, even more so- acceptance of others is imperative. ❤️
Profile Image for Reading_ Tamishly.
4,292 reviews2,288 followers
August 8, 2022
"She was black. Blueblack. No, so black she looked purple. Black as coffee, asphalt, outer space, black as the beginning and the end of the world."

Another good story about sisters. This one is so worth the hype. Different, unique and important.

*Warnings for domestic violence, sexual assault, racist remarks, Alzheimer's

In this story, we are able to see racism and discrimination does exist within a community of the same race and colour.

I find the story quite good, the writing convincing and the characters inside your head beating in your heart like you know them from the very beginning till the end.

I find the ending a bit underwhelming with all the anticipation that was there for the ending (we all know what I am talking about. The great moment of reunion. But it didn't leave me the effect that would make it memorable and emotional for me.)

My favourite character would be Jude, closely followed by Reese and Early though the story is told more about Stella and her twin sister, Desiree.

A book worth the hype after all.
Profile Image for Antje ❦.
62 reviews32 followers
April 17, 2023
Ah it's 100% making that FAVORITE BOOKS OF 2023 list.
Don't put it on your TBR, read it now 🤭 GO!!!

I've just finished the book so I'm super emotional and I feel like rambling!
This is a beautiful heart-warming (and wrenching) story about loving and losing, then loving some more and losing again. It speaks about important topics (racial inequality, gender identity, homophobia, family, social and financial issues) in such a simple, everyday, "Normal People by Sally Rooney" kinda way. Nothing is too bad or too good to be true. Even though I'm not a person of color and would never try to compare mine with struggles of these characters, I still am allowed to say that I really feel like this book spoke to me on so many levels. It's so easy to look at in and out of context, it's a story about everyone and no one in particular.
Read this if you don't know who you are or if you're having doubts about certain aspects of your identity.
We live in a society that tries to take from us every single aspect of our uniqueness, but it's our origin (culture, morals, thoughts) that is adding to the beauty of this world. Don't ever forget that 💓
Profile Image for Marchpane.
293 reviews2,128 followers
April 29, 2021
Shortlisted for the Women’s Prize 2021

The Vanishing Half is a quintessential book club book. That might sound pejorative, but please trust me, I don’t mean it to. It’s a really, really good book that just happens to be a perfect storm of all the things that book clubs generally like.

This novel is getting a LOT of buzz, so that’s a good start. Book clubs like things that are buzzy. It also sits comfortably in either the literary fiction or commercial fiction category, so it has a broad appeal. Plus, it’s topical and endlessly discussable.

The setting is fascinating—a town called Mallard, founded by a freed slave with the express objective of ‘lightness’. A ‘third place’ during a time of binary segregation, a place for those who ‘would never be accepted as white but refused to be treated like Negroes’; a sort of opt-in eugenics experiment where residents aim to create ever-lighter generations of children. Mallard is the jumping-off point for Bennett to explore, not only race, but colourism, complex racial hierarchies and the many nuances of privilege and prejudice.

Twins Stella and Desiree both reject Mallard’s strictures, but in totally different ways. Desiree marries ‘the darkest man she could find’ while Stella ‘passes’ for white, cutting all ties for the sake of her reinvention. Physically identical, the twins’ lives chart very different courses.

From there we have an almost soap-opera-worthy plot of buried secrets, coincidences, fake identities, dramatic reunions. Each of the twins has a daughter and through this second generation we can see just how widely fortunes and relative privilege diverge… all because of an arbitrary social construct. The characters are drawn with rather bold brushstrokes (Desiree: stoic; Stella: tortured; Jude: sweet & insecure; Kennedy: brash & spoiled) but they are well-rounded enough to sweep the story along.

The Vanishing Half does what it sets out to do very well. It’s serious without being heavy, breezily readable without lacking substance, and a likely contender for this year’s prize lists. An engrossing novel that is sure to be just as enjoyable to dissect at book club as it is to read.
Profile Image for Debra .
2,284 reviews35k followers
June 7, 2020
"You could never quite get used to loneliness..."

Identical twin sisters, Desiree, and Stella Vignes were born in Mallard, Louisiana, a town so small it cannot be found on the map. They have witnessed atrocities inflicted upon their father at a young age. They decide to run away from their southern black community at the age of 16 and start over in New Orleans. Years later, Desiree returns to her hometown with her young daughter while her twin sister Stella, is living as a white woman and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Desiree longs for her sister who left without saying goodbye.

Both twins’ lives go in separate directions. Once Stella leaves, neither knows what became of the other. Their lives; however, are intertwined (their daughter's lives intertwine) as this book moves from the deep south to the east coast, and to California from the 1950s to the 1990s. This is a story about love, family, mothers, daughters, acceptance, racism, how race shapes individuals' lives. This book also touches on domestic violence, gender identity, racial identity, and acceptance.

This book gives us various characters with distinct personalities and POVs. We not only read but feel their pain, their heartache, their loneliness, their happiness, and their strength. I found this to be a beautifully written and thought-provoking book.

This was my first book by Brit Bennett, and it will not be my last.

I received a copy of this book from the Editor and Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. All the thoughts and opinions are my own.
Profile Image for JanB .
1,143 reviews2,505 followers
December 28, 2020
4.5 stars
The Vignes twins are identical but they couldn’t be more different in personality. This is the story of light-skinned black twins whose lives take very different paths.

The twins grew up in the odd little fictional southern town of Mallard where the blacks found dark skin undesirable. The lighter they were, the better, and the dark-skinned blacks faced discrimination from the light-skinned ones.

As young children, the twins endure a trauma when they see their father lynched by white men. This changes the trajectory of their lives. Eventually the girls strike out on their own. Stella chooses to break ties with her family, “pass over”, and live as a white. She marries a wealthy white man and has a white, blond-haired daughter, Kennedy. Desiree makes a bad choice in a husband but eventually returns home to her hometown with Jude, her very dark black daughter.

I don’t want to ruin the story and give away too much, so I’ll keep this light on plot. What is it like for Desiree and Jude to live in a town that values light skin and discriminates against dark skin, when Jude is so very dark? How does this shape her? What is it like for Stella to live a lie, to live without relatives or childhood friends, without a history to share? Does her wealth and privilege bring contentment and happiness? She can never truly open up to anyone, not even her husband and daughter, for fear of exposing her true self. How does this shape her daughter Kennedy? What happens when a black family moves into Stella’s very white, very wealthy neighborhood?

Their choices have far-reaching unintended consequences. Eventually, events transpire that threatens to destroy the life Stella has so carefully built. How she reacts and the effects on the daughters of Stella and Desiree comprise much of the second half of the book.

I found the first half a slow build up but the second half I blew through in an afternoon. The only things that kept me from giving this a full 5 stars were a few too many coincidences moving the plot forward and awkward transitions between chapters and characters. But, the strengths in this moving novel overshadows these small criticisms.

Powerful, thought-provoking, and profound, but told through such compelling, yet flawed, characters it doesn’t read like an “issue” book. The subplot of identity is handled with depth and sensitivity.

Spanning decades, from the 1950s to the 1990s, this is an exploration of “passing”. I had not heard this term used before and read more here:

Is the vanishing half losing your twin or is it losing the half of yourself you choose to deny and leave behind when you pass? Perhaps it’s both. I love an introspective book that reveals the inner lives of characters. Days after finishing the book and I'm still thinking about these characters and the issues raised.

Marialyce and I read this together and it inspired thoughtful, deep discussions. This would make a wonderful choice for a book club .

*I received a free digital copy of this book via Edelweiss. All opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Liz.
2,020 reviews2,522 followers
July 9, 2020
This book is getting a lot of buzz, so I was pleased that our book club chose it and gave me an excuse to pick it up.
I had just finished The Warmth of Other Suns and this novel fit nicely onto its back. What hit me first is that racism is so ingrained in our culture that even among blacks, light is better. Desiree and Stella Vignes are identical twins, raised in a small town in 1950s Louisiana. They are light skinned in a town of other light skinned blacks. They run away at age 16, first to New Orleans, then further afield. In DC, Stella makes the choice to pass as white.
The book takes on all aspects of identity. Not just race, but sexual, cultural, and economic. It addresses our public vs. private selves, of what we show to others, even our closest loved ones, vs. how we see ourselves.
Bennett does an amazing job of having each and every character feel real. I found myself caring not just for the sisters and the daughters, but secondary characters like Easy, Reese and Barry.
It boggles the mind to think what it’s like to live a lie like Stella does - to walk away from one's past, to deny so much of who you are, to have to keep one's current family and friends constantly at arm’s length. She’s not always a likeable character, but she’s definitely a sympathetic one.
This was a book club selection and it should make for a wonderful discussion.
I listened to this and have to admit to sometimes struggling with Shayna Small’s southern accent. Not that it’s inauthentic, just that I didn’t always understand the words being said. But she provides a great range of voices from those Louisiana drawls to Kennedy’s California girl.
Profile Image for Cecily.
1,116 reviews3,962 followers
October 16, 2022
Update: This is heavily inspired by Nella Larsen’s Passing, which is a far better book, imo.

Carving destiny

What are you going to be when you grow up? Preschoolers love trying different roles and goals: dragon, dragon-slayer, train-driver, astronaut, alien, or elf. The boundary between real and imaginary worlds is delightfully blurred and permeable: my kid wanted me to buy real cat food for their imaginary cat!

Who are you? In adolescence, reality intrudes. If we want to pretend, it’s usually under the guise of acting. Most of us want to fit in - but only when we’ve figured out who we want to fit in with: the cool kids, the geeks, the rebels, the arty types, or the campaigners.

Image: From fantasy to reality (Sources: pretend play and Protest, Strasbourg, 9 March 2016)

Those are universal experiences, but a few people realise that attributes assigned and assumed from birth don't fit. Colour is the headline theme of this book: a black woman living as white. But many characters change identities: a trans man, a white drag queen who is a black man, an actor who is “always inventing her life”, and realtor who tells potential buyers:
Imagine your life here… Imagine who you could be.
That’s a sales pitch. Creating a new present and future can erase your past, and separate you from family. It can be a high price.

Cleaving destiny

You can escape a town, but you cannot escape blood.
This is a startling novel, ostensibly about passing (as white) in 1960s-1980s USA. Stella and Desiree are light-skinned identical twins who end up with utterly different lives: one living as black and the other passing as white (not a spoiler). Chapters switch between their shared childhood, separate adulthood, and the lives of their daughters.

She’d lived a life split between two women - each real, each a lie.
It's about cleaving together and apart. About the duality of twinship: one person in two bodies, and then, perhaps, both versions in one body. About the price of secrets and love that manifests itself in lies and even abuse. About hiding and hunting.
The key to staying lost was to never love anything.


Playing white to get ahead was just good sense.

At first, passing seemed so simple, she couldn’t understand why her parents hadn’t done it. But she was young then. She hadn’t realized how long it takes to become somebody else, or how lonely it can be living in a world not meant for you.

Image: Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga in the 2021 film, “Passing” (Source)

This was what I found most fascinating. Denying one’s heritage is a loss and perhaps betrayal, and there are practical things to learn, like different cuisine and language. However, I hadn’t considered the much deeper and more painful aspects which are so carefully portrayed.

The act could only be successful if no one ever discovered it was a ruse.
Stella lives in perpetual and increasing fear of being found out. It’s desperately lonely. She’s scared of black people:
We always know our own, her mother said.
She’s scared of pregnancy, lest a baby be too dark.
She had created a new life with a man who could never know her.
Is it worth it?


Exposing my own ignorance, as a white Brit:

• I was slightly confused that the words “black”, “colored”, and “Negro” seem to be used interchangeably (and the other N-word is occasionally used as a slur), whereas I tend to think of “colored” as an insulting term for being mixed or bi-racial.

• A few months ago, I’d have barely noticed these neutral descriptions, especially when penned by a contemporary author of colour: “a caramel woman”, a “pecan-colored” woman, and “his skin caramelized into deep brown”. However, they stood out because of the recent controversy about similar terms used by a white British author about her pupils, Kate Clanchy’s Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me. I never thought “chocolate-coloured skin” and “almond-shaped eyes” were the worst of her descriptions, but it’s not for me to decide. See my review, HERE, for details and quotes.

See also

• Nella Larsen’s 1929 novel, Passing, which contrasts the adult lives of childhood friends, one of whom later opts to pass as white. Now that I've read that, I'm downrating this to 3* because Larsen's original is so much better and this borrows so much from it, then pads it with unnecessary box-ticking subplots. See my review HERE.

• Bernardine Evaristo’s Blonde Roots, which I didn’t enjoy, makes interesting points by reversing the races in the slave trade. See my review HERE.

Rachel_Dolezal is a white woman who passed as black and even became a chapter president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

• Zen Cho’s The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo features colourism and fitting in. See my review HERE.

• Toni Morrison’s Beloved. See my review HERE.


In public, he seemed flattered when other men noticed her. In private, he punished her for their attention.
Physical abuse, and the lasting trauma of witnessing it, are mentioned, though not in graphic detail or at great length.
Everybody who ever hurt me loved me.

When the trans character first appeared, I thought it might be an awkward and heavy-handed comparison with Stella’s transition to being white, but he was a fully-formed and important character in the story.

The big weakness, imo, is that the plot relies on two coincidences, whose improbability is compounded by a character needing to remember details of the first one for it to work.


• “In Mallard, nobody married dark. Nobody left either.”

• “Lightness, like anything inherited at great cost, was a lonely gift.”

• “If nothing could be done about ugliness, you ought at least to look like you were trying to hide it.”

• “Maybe pretending to be white eventually made it so.”

• “All there was to being white was acting like you were.”

• “The only difference between lying and acting was whether your audience was in on it.”

• “‘Why can’t you just be yourself?’ Stella asked once. ‘Maybe I don’t know who that is.’”

• “Her death hit in waves. Not a flood, but water lapping steadily at her ankles. You could drown in two inches of water. Maybe grief was the same.”
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