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The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

A superbly crafted exploration of race, identity, and family.

Identical twins Desiree and Stella Vignes and most of the Black folks who live in the Deep South town where the The Vanishing Half is first set, are so light-skinned they could pass for white. 

In the 1940s, young Desiree and Stella witnessed the brutal lynching of their father by a gang of white men. Bored with small-town life at sixteen, the twins take off for New Orleans. When Stella interviews for a secretarial position there, a supervisor assumes she is white. Soon after starting the job, Stella disappears leaving her sister and mother heartbroken. 

In the years that follow, Desiree moves to DC and marries a dark-skinned Black man, while Stella marries and moves among elite circles on the West Coast.

Brit Bennett tells a genuine American story – one of secrecy, bigotry, and colorism – and the societal and family ties that connect them.

Whether you feel yourself identifying more with Desiree, Stella, or their daughters, Jude and Kennedy, the literary device of time jumping and the author’s talent for character development keep you engaged every page of the way. 

The Vanishing Half hooks you from the first chapter. Brit Bennett has written the kind of book that will make you want to start a book club just so you’ll have people to talk to about it.

Karen Schwartzkopf has her dream job as managing editor of RFM. Wife, mother, arts and sports lover, she lives and works in the West End with her family, including husband Scott, who not coincidentally is RFM’s creative director. You can read Karen’s take on parenting her three daughters – Sam, Robin, and Lindsey, also known as the women-children – in the Editor’s Voice.
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