My 15th read for this year was The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett, which was another book that had its hey day on Tiktok but I’m reading it long after the moment has passed!
A quick summary
This story follows the lives of twins, Desiree and Stella, in the American South. They come from a town that has a complicated relationship with race and skin tone, being a small community built of people of mixed heritage, who prize light skin above all else but must still follow the rules of segregation, in a world that only sees them as black Americans. The twins run away to New Orleans to escape their small town and this is where their lives start to diverge. In desperation for a good job, Stella takes a job in a firm that wouldn’t hire her if they new she was African American, but because she is white passing, Stella lies about her heritage so that she can get the job. Suddenly, Stella finds herself on the other side of the fence, with all the rights and privileges that would afford her. When she falls in love with her boss, she makes a decision to cut all ties with her past, burying the truth about who she is and where she came from forever. Desiree is left stranded in New Orleans alone after Stella packs up and leaves without any explanation or a goodbye. Her life takes a different path as she chooses to marry and dark skinned man. The story then follows their lives and the lives of their children, as they come to terms with all the consequences of the choice that Stella made.
This one of those kind of books that doesn’t really have a big ending, there’s not a big climax, the story just follows the lives of these people and their complex experiences of race and prejudice in America. The author has been very clever with how she explores these nuances, from Desiree’s child having to move back with her to their town, where her dark skin tone is constantly discussed, to Stella living in a white suburban neighbourhood but having to contend with a coloured family moving in across the street, where, out of fear of being discovered, she repeats the same prejudiced remarks as what caused her to choose to leave her heritage behind in the first place. I thought it was an interesting read and as an British reader, it was a great insight into American culture.