What We’re Reading: The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennet

Check out Durham Library Fest’s Lunch Meetup with Brit Bennett on Tuesday, April 6 from 1:00 to 2:00. 

Keep reading for a What We’re Reading review of The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett and check it out from the Durham Tech Library either online as an audiobook through Dogwood Digital Library or on Main Campus).

This book was read by Julie Humphrey, Durham Tech Library Director. 

Title: The Vanishing Half

Author: Brit Bennett

Genre: Literary fiction; historical fiction; generational fiction

Read Great Things 2021 Categories: A book about family; A book recommended by Durham Tech Library staff (our favorite category)

Twin African American sisters in the 1960’s run away from their small Southern town as teenagers in order to start new lives. A few years later, one returns to their hometown while the other pursues a life passing as a white woman. This character-driven and compelling novel spans generations with the twins and their daughters telling a deeply complex story of identity, race, gender, tragedy, abuse, loneliness, and motherhood.

Why did you choose to read this book?

My book club selected it this spring, and I had heard all the praise and attention the book has received the last few months. I was also excited to know that the author is doing an event for Durham County Library’s Library Festival in early April.

What did you like about it?

I really liked the weaving back and forth of the sister’s stories and their daughter’s stories. I liked that it spanned nearly 40 years of time and took place in different cities and states. I also really liked some of the characters who weren’t main characters but were really the most interesting voices in the book. I hadn’t read a complex family drama in a while, and it was very engrossing.

Did it remind you of any other book, tv show, movie, or any other media?

I have read a lot of strong comparisons to Nella Larson’s Passing (available through ILL), which I’m interested in reading, too. It did remind a little of Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi [available at the Durham Tech Main and Orange County Campuses], which was also about separated sisters, but covers a much longer period of time.

Anything particularly noteworthy about this?

It won the 2020 Goodreads Choice Awards for Historical Fiction. It was also on the longlist for the 2020 National Book Award. It’s also a great choice for book clubs as there is much to think about and discuss in this book!

For fans of book-to-film, The Vanishing Half will be adapted into an HBO limited series with Brit Bennett serving as an executive producer!

What feeling did it leave you with?

This book made me incredibly sad a lot of the time, but I also found a lot of joy in it as well. Some of the characters are unforgettable and will stay with me.

Who would you recommend this to?

I know some people struggle with tragedy and painful topics in their pleasure reading and fiction choices. However, I would encourage fans of literary and modern fiction to read this intriguing and important book. It’s so thought-provoking, engaging, and beautifully written.

What would you pair this with?

Pair this with a book club or find a friend to talk about this book with. It deserves reflection and discussion.

Are there any books, podcasts, or films you’d recommend to someone who liked this?

I’ve read comparisons to The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead and Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner but haven’t read those.

Want to check one of the books mentioned in this post out? You can either request it yourself through the catalog or contact us and we can get it for you and schedule a time for you to come get it. You can also check Dogwood Digital Library for Libby/Overdrive our ebooks and audiobooks. 

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