Book of the Month: Brit Bennet’s The Vanishing Half

Our book recommendation for this month is Brit Bennet’s The Vanishing Half. Through the pages of the book, we travel to Mallard (Louisiana), a small village impossible to find on the maps, with an extremely peculiar trait. In fact, Mallard’s population is entirely composed by black people with light skin. This condition causes Mallard’s people to suffer from a double discrimination: black people do not accept them in their community because of their lighter skin privilege and white people still consider them black because of racial matters, condemning them to work as servants for a living.

The story is narrated through the all-personal eyes of the twins Desiree and Stella Vignes, who are only 15 when the reader first meets them. Despite their indissoluble bond, they are quite different and with opposite aims for the future. Desiree is an extrovert dreaming about becoming a movie star, while Stella is very reserved, loves studying, and fantasizes about going to university and earning a degree. It is in this setting where they take the reckless decision to run away from Mallard. At first, the sisters stay together, supporting and helping each other in the process of starting a whole new life outside Mallard’s limitations. But soon after Stella decides to leave her sister, vanishing. From this moment on, the book follows the two paths taken by the twins, which also coincide with two radically opposite approaches to their origins and physical appearance.

Although one of the main themes of the book is colorism, meaning discrimination based on the skin color, Bennet goes through a whole set of well-furthered topics carried by the Vignes sisters, at times presented through the parallel storylines of Jude and Kennedy, Desiree’s and Stella’s daughters respectively. This way, the story deals with domestic violence, bullying and sexism but also gives an interesting depiction of the 80’s LGBTQ+ community with a particular accent on transgender issues. As Bennet’s second novel catching the critic’s eye  thanks to her brilliant writing and the in-depth theme analysis, The Vanishing Half is soon scheduled to become a tv series adaptation for the HBO.

Bennet, Brit. 2020. The Vanishing Half. Riverhead Books.

OpenEdition suggests that you cite this post as follows:
Marica Orrù (November 22, 2022). Book of the Month: Brit Bennet’s The Vanishing Half . PopMeC research blog. Retrieved July 15, 2024 from

Marica Orrù

MA in Publishing and Journalism @ Università degli Studi di Verona. BA in Languages and Cultures for Publishing (languages of expertise English and Spanish). My main research interests focus on: American popular culture and its representation through cinema, TV series and music; the construction of US heroic figures, especially related to the superhero genre in film and comics; editorial currents in the international market.

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