Skip to Main Content

Islington Branch Book Club - Past Titles: "The Vanishing Half" by Brit Bennett

Take a look through previous titles we've discussed at our Islington Branch Book Club

"The Vanishing Half" by Brit Bennett

  1. Character Analysis:

    • Analyze the characters of Desiree and Stella Vignes, the twin sisters at the center of the novel. How do their individual journeys and choices reflect different aspects of identity, race, and family?
    • Discuss the motivations and conflicts of other key characters, such as Jude, Early, and Kennedy, and how their relationships with Desiree and Stella shape their own identities and experiences.
  2. Themes of Identity and Race:

    • Explore the themes of identity and race in the novel. How do Desiree and Stella navigate their racial identities as biracial women, and how do their experiences differ based on their choices to either pass as white or embrace their Black heritage?
    • Discuss the ways in which societal expectations and norms shape the characters' perceptions of themselves and their relationships with others.
  3. Family Dynamics:

    • Reflect on the portrayal of family dynamics in the novel, particularly within the Vignes family. How do Desiree and Stella's relationships with their mother, Adele, and their daughters, Jude and Kennedy, influence their decisions and sense of identity?
    • Discuss the ways in which family secrets, traumas, and legacies impact the characters' lives and relationships across generations.
  4. Passing and Identity Concealment:

    • Reflect on the concept of passing in the novel, particularly Stella's decision to pass as white and the implications of her choice. How does passing shape Stella's identity and relationships, and what does it reveal about societal attitudes toward race?
    • Discuss the psychological and emotional toll of identity concealment and the ways in which it affects Stella's sense of self and her connections to her family and community.
  5. Socioeconomic Disparities:

    • Analyze the portrayal of socioeconomic disparities in the novel, particularly the differences in opportunity and experience between the residents of Mallard and New Orleans. How do these disparities intersect with race and identity, and how do they shape the characters' lives and choices?
    • Discuss the ways in which socioeconomic factors influence the characters' access to education, employment, and social mobility, and how these factors contribute to their sense of identity and belonging.
  6. Intersecting Narratives:

    • Reflect on the novel's structure, which interweaves multiple narrative threads across different time periods and perspectives. How does this narrative structure enhance the storytelling and thematic depth of the novel?
    • Discuss the ways in which the intersecting narratives illuminate different aspects of identity, race, and family, and how they contribute to the overall themes and messages of the novel.
  7. Gender and Sexuality:

    • Explore the themes of gender and sexuality in the novel, particularly through the characters of Jude and Kennedy. How do their experiences as women of color intersect with their gender identities and sexual orientations, and how do they navigate societal expectations and norms?
    • Discuss the ways in which gender and sexuality intersect with race and identity, and how these intersections shape the characters' experiences and relationships.
  8. Legacy and Inheritance:

    • Reflect on the theme of legacy and inheritance in the novel. How do the characters inherit the legacies of their ancestors, both in terms of family history and societal expectations? How do they grapple with these legacies and forge their own paths?
    • Discuss the ways in which the characters confront and reckon with the past, and how they seek to shape their own futures in the face of inherited burdens and opportunities.
  9. Personal Reflections and Takeaways:

    • Reflect on your own reactions and emotional responses to "The Vanishing Half." How did the novel resonate with you personally, and what insights or takeaways did you gain from the characters' journeys and the themes explored in the story?
    • Discuss the novel's themes and messages, and how they relate to your own experiences and perspectives on identity, race, and family.

Brit Bennett is an American author known for her critically acclaimed novels that explore themes of race, identity, and family dynamics. Born and raised in Southern California, Bennett graduated from Stanford University with a degree in English. She later earned her MFA in Fiction from the University of Michigan, where she was the recipient of the Hopwood Award in Graduate Short Fiction.

Bennett gained widespread recognition with the publication of her debut novel, "The Mothers," in 2016. Set in a contemporary African American community in Southern California, the novel follows the intertwined lives of three main characters as they navigate love, loss, and secrets. "The Mothers" received widespread critical acclaim for its insightful exploration of complex relationships and nuanced character development.

In 2020, Bennett's second novel, "The Vanishing Half," was published to critical acclaim and commercial success. The novel tells the story of twin sisters Desiree and Stella Vignes, who grow up in a small, predominantly Black community in Louisiana. As they navigate their racial identities and the consequences of their choices, their lives take divergent paths that ultimately converge years later. "The Vanishing Half" explores themes of racial passing, family secrets, and the enduring impact of history on identity.

"The Vanishing Half" was a New York Times bestseller and was longlisted for the National Book Award for Fiction. The novel received widespread praise for its evocative storytelling, complex characters, and thought-provoking exploration of race and identity in America.

In addition to her novels, Bennett is also a contributing writer for The New Yorker magazine, where she covers topics related to race, culture, and literature. Her essays and articles have appeared in a variety of publications, including The New York Times, The Paris Review, and Jezebel.

Bennett's work is celebrated for its lyrical prose, rich characterizations, and keen insight into the complexities of human relationships and identity. She is considered one of the most talented and influential voices in contemporary literature, and her novels continue to resonate with readers around the world.


Westwood Public Library

Main Library

660 High Street
Westwood, MA 02090
Email Main Library

Islington Branch

273 Washington Street
Westwood, MA 02090
Email Branch Library