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The Vanishing Half review

To celebrate World Book Day, GGM UK blogger Olamide has written a review on a book you will all want to get your hands on asap.

The Vanishing Half is a fictional novel by Brit Bennett, an American writer who has two New York Times Best Sellers; debut novel ‘The Mother’ and ‘The Vanishing Half’. This book follows the lives of The Vignes twins, who are very much identical but grow apart and live drastically different lives as adults with no clue that their fates are intertwined. Many themes are heavily presented in this book, with this review focusing on colourism, survival and identity.

Both the Vignes sisters grew up in a small, southern black community in America called Mallard. The effects of colourism in the black community is heavily highlighted through the perspective of a town of people ‘who would never be accepted as white but refused to be treated like Negroes,’ so basically a town filled with light-skinned black people. When thinking about this I initially thought wow this would not be tolerated at all in some places today, especially if they explicitly discriminated against dark skinned individuals. This definitely had an effect on how they saw dark-skinned people and how others saw them too. Jude is a dark-skinned young woman whose experiences of colourism are shown within the book, and it juxtaposes with the experiences of those who perpetuate that idea. Yet even with this juxtaposition, all the characters of colour are placed under this umbrella of racism and colourism which harms them all and causes some people to harm others. There is so much to dive into with this topic and how it affects all the characters, but I do not want to reveal any spoilers.

The theme of survival and all that survival entails really resonated with me and is something I believe will resonate with others too. However, I genuinely believe the theme of deception and survival work interchangeably in this book so it may be hard to identify with the theme of survival initially, especially because we live in different times. Both twins are white-passing (when a member of one racial group can be accepted [‘pass’] as a member of another) characters. One twin decides to live her life as a light-skinned black woman while the other decides to take advantage of the fact that she is white-passing.

Despite the difference in time periods I think I did not realise how our own forms and ways of survival are quite similar to the actions done by the twin who decides to live as a white woman. Some of our parents who migrated to this country, or any western country, may have changed their names in order to assimilate and survive at said country. Changing your name and your whole race is drastically different, I agree, but I do believe they both stem from living in an unjust society and wanting a better life than the one society prepares for you.

In said environment and society, it is also quite difficult to find yourself because of the norms we are expected and pressured to follow. One character especially, Reese, faces this issue and decides to leave all he knows behind in order to truly find and be himself. Reese’s journey is a difficult one and I believe that is how Jude and Reese become a great couple. They both have had hardships with understanding their identity and coming to terms with who they are. Watching them (well reading about them) both grow into who they are is one of my favourite things about this book. It really depicts that not-so-straight path of finding oneself and finding people who are also on this journey.

I really do believe the stories that are told in this novel are amazing and the themes broached such as class, ideas around marriage, mental illnesses, to name a few, are interesting. Momentum built slowly -- I felt like it took a while to get to the depths of the story. However, this shouldn’t discourage any future readers, there is a possibility that starting university had a hand in the matter. Besides that, when I did find my momentum it was really difficult for me to put the book down.

AUTHOR: Olamide Taiwo

My name is Olamide Taiwo and I’m 19. I have always loved to write whether it be poetry, reviews, essays etc. Becoming a blogger allows me to write and publish issues that I see and go through. So I hope the readers hold on because this will be a pleasant but bumpy ride😊.

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