Desiree, one of the lost twins of Mallard, Louisiana, has returned home with her "black as tar" daughter Jude. She is returning to a town founded as a place for people who "would never be accepted as white, but refused to be treated as Negroes." The founder hoped to create a "more perfect Negro" with each "generation lighter than the one before."
In 1954, 16-year-old twins Stella and Desiree Vignes ran away from home. Desiree later works as an FBI fingerprint examiner in Washington D.C., and Stella leaves her sister to find her own way in the world. She moves to California, marries a white man, has a daughter, and passes for white. Her family has no idea of Stella's secret past.
As the story moves from the 1950s into the 90s, author Brit Bennett examines sisterhood and the idea of "a sister as a kind of alternate self."The twins share the trauma of seeing their father lynched by white men. The author explores how that kind of inherited trauma might affect the next generation who have no idea what they have inherited. Both sisters have daughters that meet by chance, not knowing that they are related or any idea of their mothers' shared past.
I found this novel so interesting on many levels: the idea that a town places importance on skin tones, the idea of passing, and the dichotomy of what life would be like staying in the South as opposed to living in the North. In The Vanishing Half (2020), we see two lives and two dramatically different paths. A compelling story of family, identity, and race.
Check out the ebook or audiobook of The Vanishing Half on Overdrive today. For more own voices stories, browse our list of Black Voices: Historical Fiction.