Brit Bennett’s ‘The Vanishing Half’ explores racial passing

Brit Bennett's 'The Vanishing Half' explores racial passing
Brit Bennett (Photo credit: Emma Trimm)

In June 2015, the world discovered Rachel Dolezal, a White woman who pretended to be a Black activist for years. Dolezal’s extended performance as a Black woman is a clear instance of racial “passing.” Racial passing is generally defined as an instance in which a person from one racial group is accepted into another group, usually through deceitful means. Brit Bennett’s bestselling novel, The Vanishing Half, expertly explores the idea of passing.

The novel records the decisions and actions of twins, Stella and Desiree Vignes. The sisters are African Americans with very light skin growing up in the town of Mallard, Louisiana. They run away at 16 in hopes of making better lives for themselves. Despite the fact that they are twins and have many of the same life experiences, the two make very different choices.

Desiree, the twin who always wanted to leave Mallard, marries a Black man and returns to their hometown. Stella, who left home more reluctantly, marries a White man and uses her light skin to “pass” as White.  The novel is told in a nonlinear format, jumping forward and backward in time. That allows the reader to understand the motivations behind the twins’ drastically different decisions and the impact of those decisions across their newly built families. The novel asks readers to consider if one can really ever escape their point of origin or if the past has a way of coming back to haunt you, even decades later.

You can find The Vanishing Half and other works by Britt Bennett on

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Read more about:

Also read

Watch this video

What's new

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x