The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett follows the lives of the Vignes twins who decide to run away from their small town at sixteen. The identical twins are so light skinned that they could pass as “White”. When the opportunity presents one of them takes it.
Desiree Vignes always wanted to get away from her town, where skin color is all that mattered. But when she returns years later, with a black skinned kid in tow, she was sure she will get away again.
Stella Vignes did get away from their town once and for all. She has a well settled life and a family that will never know her previous life.
Do either of them regret their choices? Is passing as “White” worth losing your identity and past? Can the lives of these identical sisters ever reunite? Read more about them in The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett.
Book review of The Vanishing Half
I am glad The Vanishing Half was one of the first books I read this year as it set such a positive hope for the year. I loved it and would keep recommending it to anyone who would listen.
Set in the fictional town of Mallard, Louisiana, The Vanishing Half deals with several intense themes like race, class, identity, internalized colorism, abuse, melancholy and motherhood. It made me question the narratives about race and caste passed on over generations by our families.
While we might judge Stella for her internalized racism, bigotry and selfish decisions, it is hard not to sympathize with her loneliness and trying to find an identity for her new self.
What worked for me
I loved how the author got me introspecting my own prejudice and issues with generations of conditioning about colorism.
The Vanishing Half is not a plot oriented book, but it is just the author’s writing style kept me hooked until the end.
I loved how each character was well written and had a part to play. From Early to Reese, I enjoyed the male characters as much as the strong female ones.
What may have been better
I wish there were a bit more about Reese’s struggle as a trans guy in transition and passing himself as guy for years. I guess his life was not smooth as a trans man in the LGBTQ – drag circle in 1970s too.
The second part moved a bit slower than the first. You might find yourself skipping a paragraphs.
If you don’t like books with multiple POV, you might wanna watch out. But it did work spectacularly well for me.
Racism (internalized and otherwise), Domestic abuse, colorism, running away from home, gender reassignment surgery.
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett is a must read historical fiction that deals with intense themes like racism, colorism, abuse and melancholy. Catch this hyped book out without hesitation!
Set in the roaring twenties, The Great Gatsby is a timeless classic that offers great social commentary on the rich urban lifestyle. And even today, the book is still relevant. Here are some of the most powerful quotes from The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald that I love.
Powerful quotes from The Great Gatsby
Quite recently I watched the movie The Great Gatsby (2013), a classic that talks so much about the American dream, and class and race divide of the 1920s. In a short while, I returned to read The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, possibly for the quotes.
Books are a uniquely portable magic.”
― Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
Books are the ultimate Dumpees: put them down and they’ll wait for you forever; pay attention to them and they always love you back.”
― John Green, An Abundance of Katherines
They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made..
– The Great Gatsby, Chapter 9
And I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties there isn’t any privacy.
– The Great Gatsby, Chapter 3
In my younger . . . years my father gave me some advice . . . “Whenever you feel like criticizing any one . . . just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.
– The Great Gatsby, Chapter 1
You see I usually find myself among strangers because I drift here and there trying to forget the sad things that happened to me.
– The Great Gatsby, Chapter 4
“She’s got an indiscreet voice,” I remarked. “It’s full of—” I hesitated.
“Her voice is full of money,” [Gatsby] said suddenly.
That was it. I’d never understood before. It was full of money—that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbals’ song of it.
– The Great Gatsby, Chapter 7
I’m glad it’s a girl. And I hope she’ll be a fool—that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.
I love reading about history and historical fiction. I knew I would like The Kinship of Secrets based on the summary. But I was excited because I almost knew nothing about Korean history and I actually wanted to. Did The Kinship of Secrets by Eugenia Kim fulfill the promise? Read on to know more.
Just a short while after the World War II and the subsequent freedom from Japanese annexation, Najin and Calvin Cho move from Korea to the USA on the lookout for better prospective.
With a plan to return within two years, they take only their eldest daughter Miran with them, leaving the youngest Inja in the care of her aging parents and Najin’s brother.
Unexpectedly, the Korean War breaks out making it almost impossible for a reunion in the near future. Miran grows in an American suburbia, under the guilt and pressures of being the chosen one, while Inja’s problems are much bigger living in a war torn country with scanty resources.
When they finally get to meet after a decade and a half, would there still be a chance to family despite the horde of secrets between them? Would the years passed matter or just the familial bonds good enough form the rest of the story in The Kinship of Secrets by Eugenia Kim.
I was not sure what to expect when I picked the book and frankly it took me a while to get into the story. But about 30 pages in, I was completely sucked in. The alternating narratives between the sisters worked very well in this case as did the straight forward narrative.
Kim ensures the reader can trace the disparity between the two girls and the parallel worlds they live in. I adored the much more simplistic life of Inja and her devoted love towards her uncle, despite the dire circumstances they faced.
And Miran always knew that she had a privileged life and bore the brunt of it. She feels like an outsider in her own house when they all speak Korean and grows up watching the packages sent to Korea.
I am usually “heartless” when it comes to fictional characters, but somehow the plight of the young girls made me sob like a baby. And the credit goes to the author for that.
The Kinship of Secrets was an emotional read with compelling characters that are quintessentially Asian. I was surprised to see the many similarities between the traditions and yesteryear’s habits (as heard from family) of Korea and India. The importance of family and putting others first seem to be a common thread.
The Kinship of Secrets is inspired by a true story, so do not miss out on the Author’s note at the end of the book. I am looking forward to reading her other book, The Calligrapher’s Daughter.
What worked for me
The alternating narratives works well and shows the contrast between the lives of the sisters.
I loved the author’s writing style and it invoked so many emotions in me. She also made reading the Korean history more fun.
Knowing that The Kinship of Secrets was inspired by true events made it all the more interesting.
What may have been better
I felt the pre-adolescent chapters could have been shorter.
The Kinship of Secrets by Eugenia Kim is a poignant tale about sisterhood, family and secrets that keep them all together. If you are interested in an emotional read with lots of Korean history, you won’t be disappointed with this one.
It has been a hot minute since I read Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson during our staycation last month. But I have been avoiding to pen down my review/thoughts for a while because I was not sure if I could ever do it some justice. Finally I braved to get on with it and here is my review of Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson!
Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson begins with the sixteen year old Melody getting ready for her coming out party and fighting with her mother on the song that she chose.
Seeing her walk down the stairs in a dress her mother missed out on wearing stirs up emotions and memories for the whole family, which the reader gets to know from the number of alternating point of views.
Melody grew up largely as a motherless child with a doting father and supportive maternal grandparents. Her relationship with her mother Iris was turbulent at best.
Red at the Bone is an intergenerational family drama, that involves several intense themes like teenage pregnancy, motherhood, fatherhood, grief, ambition, classism, sexism, poverty and racism.
It walks us through the aftermaths of an unexpected teenage pregnancy in an African American family and the costs of the choices that each one of them makes.
And Woodson does a phenomenal job in keeping the readers on toes with her lyrical writing and acute observation of complex human emotions. Alternating between a number of point of views might seem overwhelming for a few but it worked so brilliantly for me.
I knew Red at the Bone had raving reviews but I wasn’t prepared for the overwhelming emotions that swept me off as I began connecting to each character and the choices they make. And the fact that I could feel all these in just 200 pages is just mind blowing.
Initially I was not sure why Melody was so cold to Iris and later, about how Iris could treat Aubrey the way she did. But just within a chapter or two, I found myself thinking “maybe, that’s what I would have done too”. And that is a win for the writer on my books.
Red at the Bone is a powerful book that talks about the invisible threads of misery, secrets and anger that holds the family together.
What worked for me
To just say I loved the author’s writing style and her powerful words would be unjust. She is phenomenal.
Each and every character is etched to perfection. Sabe and Po’Boy’ were my favorites.
What may have been better
If you are not a fan of multiple POVs, watch out. Red at the Bone has five POVs (though very well done).
This is definitely not a plot intensive drama.
While this poignant story may not be entirely new or memorable, it is the impact of the lyrical writing and the emotions that the author packed into her words that makes Red at the Bone so powerful and popular.
Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson is worth all the hype it gets and pick up this short book if you are into literary fiction.
Have you ever picked up a book, and within minutes you know that it is going to stay with you for a long time? One such book for me would be Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. Read my book review of Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi to know how it fared for me.
The first time I heard about Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi was in 2018. Immediately, I knew there was only two ways this could end for me – either I am going to hate it and DNF, or I am gonna find a book that would recommend the heck of it to everyone I know.
The book begins in the eighteenth century Ghana where the slave trade by the whites is at its peak. Effia and Esi are half-sisters born in different villages in Ghana. And it is through the lives of their descendants that we get a glimpse of history of Black lives in Africa and America over the centuries.
Effia becomes the mistress to an Englishman and lives in the comparative comfort of his castle, where unbeknownst to her, Esi among thousands of other African slaves is entrapped and sold to the America.
Esi and her family form the American history as a part of Alabama’s cotton plantations, Civil War, the coal mining and the twentieth century’s Harlem dope houses, to the present day. On the other hand, Effia and her descendants stay back in the continent to initially take part in the slave trade enthusiastically to finally fight their enslavers over the course of generations.
To know more about this family saga coupled with the history of Black lives in America and the slave trade in Ghana, you will have to read Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi.
My initial thoughts
First off I have to say Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi is going to be painful, hard and intense. This plot driven multi-generational family saga has too many characters and many African words to be an easy read.
The chapters are quite short, as is the book itself, and for a few it might read like a collection of short stories.
Okay now that I have warned you about everything that could put you off and have done my part to cast away the weak hearted’s, let us talk about Homegoing earnestly.
The subject matter of this semi autobiography, a risk you take when reading an Own Voice book, is the history of slavery and the drastic mistreatment of the Blacks over the centuries. True to the nature of the subject, Homegoing is painful and makes you wonder if we have moved forward at all.
Homegoing follows the seven generations of Effia and Esi alternatively, over two continents Africa and America – that is fourteen perspectives with our 250 years cover ground. And Yaa Gyasi does it effortlessly and so intricately in about 300 pages that I can’t believe that it is her debut novel.
We believe the one who has power. He is the one who gets to write the story. So when you study history, you must ask yourself, Whose story am I missing? Whose voice was suppressed so that this voice could come forth? Once you have figured that out, you must find that story too. From there you get a clearer, yet still imperfect, picture.
I would go as far as telling that Homegoing had such an impact in me that I, not only had a book hangover for the next two days but also made me introspect on the effect of British oppression had on us as Indians and me as a person, in such a way that I had never thought of before.
My heart broke when Marcus tries to find his ancestors and could only reach till his grandfather H. I wished I could tell him the tales of his forefathers and that he finally reached his place in Ghana. Rarely, I get all emotional over books and I keep it objective and the point in my review, but guys, this book!!
In reality, that is literally what was done to him and the other millions of Blacks, we have uprooted them for personal gains, erased their history, not to speak of the atrocities their ancestors had to go through as slaves and second and third class citizens, and now we are still shooting them cuz of the color of their skin.
What worked for me
I loved how each story connected to the next generation so that we don’t miss the flow at all. I loved how the stone traveled generations to reach the other half of the family.
The writing was simple but yet so empathetic. It was so realistic that it made me feel like I know Ghana and the coal mines in Alabama, personally.
The way the slavery and colonialism, racism and the violence of it all were written made an impact in me that my history texts never it.
I loved that everyone I know who read this book had a different favorite character. Each of them were so well written that I can’t pick one how much ever I tried.
What may have been better
I wish the stories of the recent generations were little bit longer. Obviously, they were great as they are but I just wanted to spend a little more time knowing them.
If you are not a fan of plot driven books, Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi may not work for you.
If you are mildly interested in knowing the history of slavery, British colonialism or history of Black slaves in the USA, Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi should be your choice.
This historical fiction about seven generation family saga will satisfy both your fictional and history thirst! I will be reading more from the author definitely.
Go pick Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi already. Get your quota of reading towards Black lives matter and books by BIPOC about BIPOC or whatever other counts you have, but READ THIS BOOK.