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Bridging Racial Divides: The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

3 Mar

I’ve been waiting to read a book like The Vanishing Half for a long time.

As someone who reads a lot of fiction, I’m very fussy about what I read. I’m always looking for a new and interesting way to tell a story, and this book certainly does that. On the surface, the book tells the simple story about a set of twin girls who live in a very small town named Mallard. The town is so small that it doesn’t even officially appear on a map, but we do know that they are in the Deep South. The girls are described as being of African American descent. And both the town they live in and the girl’s mother sees them as such. But when the girls run away from home at sixteen, Desiree continues to be seen as African American while Stella is able to pass herself off as a white woman. The two roads that these women take because of their seemingly differing racial identities lead them on two journeys that are both heartbreaking and wonderful.

I love the way that Brit Bennett frames the way that the girls are treated differently because of how they’re seen, how Stella deals with “passing” as a white woman, and how ultimately, the twins have to come back together in order to move forward. Bennett does a great job of describing what it’s like to have an identical twin sister, and how the Vignes sisters are two halves of a whole.

I think that this is a book that we need right now in 2021. The racial divides that have been haunting our country are stated so clearly in this book. I feel that this book tackles race in a new way that can make people realize just how important it is to talk about race openly and with compassion. As an Asian American woman, I have seen how people in this country have found a way to be even more openly racist towards people like me because of Covid 19 being called the “China disease.” We need literature like this to bring people together and in order to have honest conversations about race.

This book is available at the Hoboken Library through BCCLS in regular print, large print, as a book on CD, and on Playaway. It is also available as digital audiobooks and ebooks from eLibraryNJ and eBCCLS.

Written by:
Nicole Marconi
Library Assistant, Children’s Department

Black History Month Spotlight on a Great Up-and-Coming Author: Luster by Raven Leilani

10 Feb

As someone who has had a lot of temporary jobs in the past, I was immediately drawn to the main character at the center of Luster. At the heart of the story is a character named Edie. She is a 23-year-old African American woman working at a publishing company in NYC, wishing and hoping that her dream job will work out for her. This is a story that we’ve seemingly heard before. Woman in her early twenties trying to figure out her life in the big city. What’s the big deal, right? Been there, done that, move on, next book.

The reason this book is important and also a must-read is because it dares to go where other books can’t or won’t go. Raven Leilani, the debut author of Luster, takes us into Edie’s head and describes her very real-life experiences in such detail that I couldn’t help but relate to her. She ends up dating a white married man who works in the city but lives in New Jersey with his wife and their adopted African American daughter. The catch is that this guy’s wife is okay with Edie dating her husband because they have an open marriage. Through a series of weird and coincidental events, Edie ends up living in New Jersey with her new lover and her lover’s wife and child. 

Leilani’s writing is what kept me immersed in this book from the get-go.  She has a way of keeping you captivated and also second-guessing about what Edie is going to do next. Edie in this book is her own worst enemy, but I could relate so much to the way that she can see what the safer choice is for her to make, and then immediately runs in the other direction just to see what happens. Anyone who has ever been in their early twenties (or even later in life) and feels like their life is spinning them in circles on a daily basis, then this book is for you.

Written by:
Nicole Marconi
Library Assistant, Children’s Department

Celebrate Black History Month with us; share your favorite Black Authors or books about African American History in the comments!

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