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June: “The Vanishing Half” by Brit Bennett

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

Our June 2020 Book of the Month

It is with a heavy heart that I have been watching the events occurring in our country and asking myself on a daily, if not hourly basis, “What can I do to help create a more humane and just world?” I am acutely aware of my privilege and of my responsibility to use my voice and my platform to stop the racial and social injustice I am witnessing. I will never feel that what I do is enough, but I will never stop trying. Today I will use the best platform available to me as a curator of literature for book clubs. This month I have selected a powerful and meaningful work of fiction as our June Book of the Month and hope it makes a difference in readers lives. I hope that it will be passed on to those that need to read it and that no one will shy away from its content or its relevance.

Ralph Ellison said, “In our time the most articulate form for defining ourselves and for asserting our humanity is in the novel. Certainly, it is our most rational art form for dealing with the irrational.” Brit Bennett’s debut novel, The Mothers, was an exploration of race that was a book club favorite and won her many accolades as it delved into motherhood, secrets, and how the decisions we make when we are young can shape the rest of our lives. With her second novel, The Vanishing Half, Bennett has broadened the scope of her themes and matured as a writer. This is a story of twin sisters born into a family of light skinned African Americans in the South. They witness the brutal lynching of their father and it binds them together for life even as they each choose very separate paths, one in the white world the other in the black world into which she was born.

If I have learned anything from listening to the voices of black America it is not for me to say this is a book for our times. This is unfortunately a book for all times, it is not a revelation of a new truth, but it is another well written iteration of an eternal truth that many of us first read in the novels of Toni Morrison and James Baldwin. Our June Book of the Month, The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennett is a book that I hope you will read, discuss, and be haunted by how we are all still living in the shadows of our personal and national histories. This book is not merely about race it is about identity, and how much choice we each have in the shaping of who we are at the cores of our existence.

ABOUT THE BOOK

From The New York Times-bestselling author of The Mothers, a stunning new novel about twin sisters, inseparable as children, who ultimately choose to live in two very different worlds, one black and one white.

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 secretly 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.

As with her New York Times-bestselling debut The Mothers, Brit Bennett offers an engrossing page-turner about family and relationships that is immersive and provocative, compassionate and wise.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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. Her work is featured in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Jezebel, and more, and her first novel The Mothers was a New York Times bestseller.

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