Dear Reader,

Thank you for your interest in The Vanishing Half for your book club. The spark for this novel first arrived to me one winter morning in 2015, while I was talking to my mother on the phone and she mentioned, offhandedly, a town she’d heard about when she was a child growing up in rural Louisiana. “It was a town where everyone intermarried so that their children would get lighter and lighter,” she said. The idea sounded almost mythical to me, a town filled with Black people so obsessed with light skin that they would try to genetically engineer their population in pursuit of it. I began to imagine twin sisters born in a place like this whose lives diverge to opposite sides of the color line: one disappears to live as a white woman, the other mysteriously returns home with a dark-skinned daughter. As I wrote, the story expanded into the next generation, the twins’ choices rippling through the lives of their own daughters, each one forced to reckon with the complicated secrets she has inherited. To me, this ultimately is a story about the liberation and pain of transformation. What do we gain and what do we lose in becoming someone new? I hope you’ll immerse yourself in this story about family and identity and all the choices that we make to become who we are, and I hope you enjoy thinking about all of these issues with your book club.

—Brit Bennett

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Click below to download The Vanishing Half book club kit! Inside you'll find discussion questions for your group, a conversation with the author, and The Vanishing Half cocktail recipe.

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About the Book

Book Cover

The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it's not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it's everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Many years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters' storylines intersect?

Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person's decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.

As with her New York Times-bestselling debut The Mothers, Brit Bennett offers an engrossing page-turner about family and relationships that is immersive and provocative, compassionate and wise.

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The Vanishing Half Cocktail

This cocktail and its ingredients is representative of The Vanishing Half and the life of the Vignes sisters. The bourbon and peach flavor profile represents southern roots, balanced out with the orange citrus California is so famous for. The red wine float creates a stark visual contrast, but even though there appears to be a separation in the cocktail, it's all still perfectly balanced.


Ingredients:

2 oz Bourbon
3/4 oz Peach Syrup
1 oz Orange Juice
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
Red wine float (recommendation: dry red wine like a Malbec)

Prep Steps:

Combine all ingredients, except for the red wine, into a cocktail shaker and add ice. Shake to chill the drink, then strain it into a rocks glass over ice. Pour 1 oz of red wine over the back of a bar spoon (or kitchen spoon) into the cocktail to achieve the float. Garnish with a peach wedge and lemon twist.

Crafted by Elliott | @Apartment_Bartender

Praise for The Vanishing Half

  • Author Brit Bennett talks about her book, ‘The Vanishing Half’ (Good Morning America)

  • With Author Brit Bennett’s Second Novel, a Literary Star Is Born (Wall Street Journal)

  • “Now That Someone Has Given You This Knowledge, What Are You Going to Do With It?”: Brit Bennett on The Vanishing Half, Protest, and How Change Happens (Vanity Fair)

  • Her mom inspired her book on race and identity. Then came the Hollywood bidding war (Los Angeles Times)

  • Brit Bennett on her New Novel 'The Vanishing Half" and the History of Racial Passing (CBS "This Morning")

ICYMI: Live with Brit

THE MOTHERS

Photo: © Emma Trim

Brit Bennett

Born and raised in Southern California, Brit Bennett graduated from Stanford University and later earned her MFA in fiction at the University of Michigan, where she won a Hopwood Award in Graduate Short Fiction as well as the 2014 Hurston/Wright Award for College Writers. Her work is featured in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The Paris Review, and Jezebel. She is one of the National Book Foundation's 2016 5 Under 35 honorees.

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