What Am I Reading – Chapter Thirty-Six

Hi Everyone,

It’s been awhile since the last chapter, but I’ve been reading plenty of books. Recently, I finished No-Mod: Book 1 of the Mute-Cat Chronicles by Derek Porterfield and The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand from two chapters ago. With the latter, if you betted that I wouldn’t finish it, you lost.

I’m currently reading I Let You Fall: A Romantic Drama by Sara Downing and Empire of Wild by Cherie Dimaline from the last chapter as well as an audiobook that I just picked up this past week.

Let’s take a look at it!

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett is about the identical Vignes twin sisters. They would always be identical with their looks. But after growing up in Mallard – a small, southern black community – and running away at age 16, their lives as adults become different with their families, communities, and racial identities. Many years later, one sister with her black daughter returns to the place she once tried to escape from. The other passes as white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Despite their separation, their lives remain intwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ storylines intersect?

I’m about halfway through the novel, and I like it despite how much a slow-burner it is. I don’t mean this as an insult. I only notice that it takes its time with getting from one place to another. It sometimes goes back and forth between time in order to do so. I had to really pay attention whenever the third-person narrator recalls an event happening to one character in plenty of detail as that person has a conversation with another.

Some readers might be frustrated by the pacing, but it doesn’t bother me all that much because it’s a very interesting character study about a pair of light-skinned twins and how they chose to deal with the various aspects of colorism. Even though both Desiree and Stella appear white, they know, especially the former, that they will be still be black in the eyes of the white community ever since they witnessed their father getting murdered by a white mob. Years later, Desiree returns to Mallard to escape her abusive marriage, and her black daughter Jude experiences a lot of colorism in that community to the point that she leaves it for California to attend college. As for Stella, she pretends to be white so much that she demonstrates anti-blackness towards a black person who wanted to move in the white neighborhood.

This isn’t my first time reading about colorism and passing as I had read The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray in the past. Unlike that novel, The Vanishing Half shows that both aspects are still very much present in today’s society, still impact how certain people are perceived, and still can be passed down from one generation to the next. The town itself demonstrates this with how everyone is so light-skinned that they can pass off as white. At the same time, they exhibit a lot of anti-blackness, especially how the twins’ mom tells them to stay away from dark men. Only one of them listened.

As mentioned earlier, I’m listening to the audiobook now, and Shayna Small narrates it. Small has narrated several audiobooks like Red to the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson, Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi, and Sunflower Sisters by Martha Hall Kelly. Small gives subtle, but distinct voices to her characters. For instance, she gives Desiree an assertive and defying tone, while she portrays Stella as more quiet and delicate. The men she depicts have their distinctions too. For example, Desiree’s boyfriend Early talks with a relaxed, independent, and kind tone. This is in contrast to Desiree’s ex-husband Sam, who speaks more quickly and aggressively.

Overall, even though it can be slow and jumps timelines a lot, I find the characters to be pretty nuanced. I’m definitely rooting for the twins to be reunited if they ever are.

We have now come to the end of the thirty-sixth chapter of “What Am I Reading?”

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Published by emilymalek

I work at a public library southeast Michigan, and I facilitate two book clubs there. I also hold a Bachelor's degree in History and Theatre from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, MI; a Master's degree in Library and Information Science from Wayne State University in Detroit, MI; and a Graduate Certificate in Archival Administration also from Wayne. In my downtime, I love hanging out with friends, play trivia and crossword puzzles, listening to music (like classic rock and K-pop), and watching shows like "Monty Python's Flying Circus"!

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