Brit Bennett’s new book “The Vanishing Half” was reviewed in the New York Times on May 26, 2020 and was already on my Must Read list. But when George Floyd was killed, and conversations about racial justice became a part of our lives, Brit’s book felt particularly timely. The book is now a bestseller.
Brit came to the attention of an editor (who gave her a book deal) when she wrote this piece in Jezebal: “I Don’t Know What to do with Good White People“. She grew up in California, attended Stanford and now lives in New York, where she is teaching writing. “The Vanishing Half” will be a film on HBO.
The book is a perfect choice for a summer read, telling a poignant story of two light-skinned Black sisters, twins who wind up separating and leading very different lives; one raises a child in Louisiana and the other passes as white and lives in California. The doubling continues as their daughters get to know each other. Reading this book now offers a fictional sidebar to reading you might be doing as an ally to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Brit recently spoke with Vanity Fair about reading and racial justice and how we all move forward from this moment.
Maybe this is a little cynical, but I think a lot of people know already. I don’t think it’s necessarily that people don’t realize that in this country, it is easier to be white than to be Black. I think people know that. I think that what people are reckoning with now is what to do about that. A friend I was talking to said this thing that stuck with me, which is that it’s one thing to acknowledge your privilege, but it’s another thing to recognize that this experience needs to rectify everything that is happening with respect to inequality, it requires loss. And people don’t want to lose anything. That’s why they want to buy anti-racist books. They want to do these things that are about acquiring new things. It’s great, it gives you information, hopefully you’re supporting Black bookstores and Black businesses. I support that, and I’m not trashing it. But I think really the question that white folks need to ask themselves is, are you ready to lose something? It’s one thing to acknowledge the privilege, it’s one thing to educate those around you. But you have to be willing to lose something, and I think that’s the hard part that people aren’t willing to face right now. It’s like, So now that someone has given you this knowledge, what are you going to do with it? That’s the next step people have to be willing to take.