WellRead’s July 2020 selection was The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennet, a multigenerational family saga that follows twins, inseparable as children, who ultimately choose to live in two very different worlds: one black and one white.
Use these discussion questions to engage with the book further, whether in a book club with friends, or just on your own as you digest the story.
Reading questions for The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennet:
What do you think the title means within the context of the story?
Stella and Desiree witness a horrific act of racialised violence that indelibly marks their childhood and shapes their identities. How does trauma manifest differently in each of the sisters and their own daughters?
Bennett has said in reference to writing about passing that she was more interested in exploring not what people can gain by doing it but what they risk to lose. What does Stella lose?
Desiree’s job as a fingerprint analyst uses scientific methods to identify people through physical, genetic details. Why do you think the author chose this to be her profession and how does it play into the book’s theme of identity?
Did the Black Lives Matter conversation influence the way you read the book and if so, how?
A review of the book suggested that Bennett’s plots were melodramatic and cited the Dickens quote that if you tell people a wild and compelling enough story, they may just listen to things they'd rather not hear. What are the things in this book that readers would rather not hear?
- In an interview, Bennett asked the question: “If you can perform whiteness, then what does it mean to be white?”. It was a question meant to illuminate that racial hierarchies are built on categories that are permeable. Discuss!
Please note, these questions were written and distributed in July, 2020.