📖: Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half (2020)
🍸: twin sister
Why this book?
This novel begins as a story of two biracial twin sisters, Stella and Desiree, who leave their small black community in Louisiana for New Orleans. One day, Stella suddenly vanishes to live a secret life passing as a white woman. While Stella and Desiree’s lives increasingly diverge over time, they are inextricably bound together by unanswered questions, grief, longing, and ultimately, their daughters.
“Why wouldn’t you be white if you could be?” Stella thinks as she reflects back on her life. “Remaining what you were or becoming something new, it was all a choice, any way you looked at it. [Stella] had just made the rational decision.”
Beyond the sisters’ plot line, this is a broader, multigenerational story of transformation. Other characters also dramatically change — some by choice, and others not. There are individuals who undergo gender transitions, strive for socioeconomic mobility, become single parents, lose their memory due to illness, or turn into abusive partners. The premise captivated me from the beginning, and when I got to the end, I still wanted to know more about the characters, who were each so textured and full of humanity. Especially Jude and Reese and Early.
The book left me with many questions on identity. How do we see and define ourselves in a world that values only whiteness? How much of our choice to transform is rooted in self-love, self-acceptance, or self-hate? Whatever we choose to be, how much of that choice should be judged as right or wrong (or even judged at all)?
Why this drink?
I’m pairing this novel with a gin & tonic because Stella enjoys lounging in her pool with a gin soda-like drink in hand. I also chose this drink for its transparency, which, like Stella, seems to vanish in to its surroundings.
2 oz gin
4 oz tonic water
two lime wheels
- pour gin and tonic over ice
- stir and add more tonic water, if desired
- add two lime wheels (one for each twin!)
Another round, please! 🥂
You might also like:
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun (2006)
Finished the book? What did you think about it? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!
And check out The Vanishing Half Book Club Kit, which includes its own custom cocktail pairing! 😍