Book Review of The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
I’ve heard so much about this book and have seen it all over Instagram – and the cover is certainly eye catching. I finally picked it up and am so glad that I did.
This is the story of twins, Stella and Desiree, who are Black but are light skinned so can pass as White, which one of them does. This is pretty much all I knew going in and was pleasantly surprised that the book was so much more than this. Spanning from the 1950s to the 1990s, this book follows 4 main narrators, Stella and Desiree, but also their daughters, Kennedy and Jude.
The exploration of vanishing is done through multiple ways, not just through race and I loved how all of the story lines interconnected around this theme. There are so many reasons that people hide parts of themselves and Bennett touches on some of these in really thoughtful ways (I won’t spoil anything here).
The book also focuses on what it means to be Black and discrimination. Some of that was honestly hard to read, but necessary all the same.
I was totally invested in this story and the characters, even when I disliked them and their choices (which is something I love, well rounded characters who challenge me). This book is well written, engaging, and sweeping (and gorgeous).
In 1936, tucked deep into the woods of Troublesome Creek, KY, lives blue-skinned 19-year-old Cussy Carter, the last living female of the rare Blue People ancestry. The lonely young Appalachian woman joins the historical Pack Horse Library Project of Kentucky and becomes a librarian, riding across slippery creek beds and up treacherous mountains on her faithful mule to deliver books and other reading material to the impoverished hill people of Eastern Kentucky.
Along her dangerous route, Cussy, known to the mountain folk as Bluet, confronts those suspicious of her damselfly-blue skin and the government’s new book program. She befriends hardscrabble and complex fellow Kentuckians, and is fiercely determined to bring comfort and joy, instill literacy, and give to those who have nothing, a bookly respite, a fleeting retreat to faraway lands.
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is a powerful message about how the written word affects people–a story of hope and heartbreak, raw courage and strength splintered with poverty and oppression, and one woman’s chances beyond the darkly hollows. Inspired by the true and historical blue-skinned people of Kentucky and the brave and dedicated Kentucky Pack Horse library service, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek showcases a bold and unique tale of the Pack horse Librarians in literary novels — a story of fierce strength and one woman’s belief that books can carry us anywhere — even back home.
I’ve been intrigued by the pack horse librarians ever since I heard about them a couple of years ago so I jumped at the chance to read this book. I was immediately drawn into this well-written and well-researched book.
This is the story of Cussy, better known as Bluet, a rare blue-skinned woman living in a severely impoverished area in Kentucky during the 1930s. Bluet gets a job as a pack horse librarian, bringing books to isolated people in the hills. She has a passion for books and loves her time in the mountains, visiting with and sharing books with her patrons, helping them to read and learn, keeping scrapbooks to share knowledge and recipes, connecting people.
Bluet also happens to have a rare genetic affliction which makes her physically blue. Her and her blue relatives don’t fit in anywhere and are shunned by everyone. However, her doctor is progressive and curious and is determined to study her and find out why she is the colour she is.
I loved this novel and got totally caught up in Bluet’s world, feeling anxious for the isolated mountain people and hoping they would find enough food, becoming friends with the dedicated school teacher doing her best to feed her student’s minds and bodies, feeling concern for her overworked father who has to take the risky jobs in the coal mines, and getting caught up in Bluet’s passion and dedication to her job and her absolute love of books and learning and sharing that with those she meets.
This is an inspiring novel, tackling a difficult time in history, when women didn’t often hold jobs, racism was rampant, and poverty was everywhere. The book tells people’s stories in a way that I couldn’t put down, that tore at my heart strings, but at the same time was optimistic. Richardson tread the delicate balance between heartbreaking and moving and a difficult past in a beautifully told story.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a review copy of this book.
Today I am interviewing Bloxnor from Chad Descoteaux’s sci-fi novel The Inter-Terrestrial. Not that long ago I interviewed Chad (you can find his interview here)
Hello, it’s great to have you here. Can you tell us your name and a bit about yourself. My name is Bloxnor. I am a scientist from the planet Neptune and a senior member of the United Scientists Guild (U.S.G.). We are an interplanetary group of scientists and diplomats that strive to protect those were affected by political conflicts on their home worlds. I am married to my brilliant wife Zi and we have our first child on the way.
Where are you from and what is it like there? I grew up in Kratek, the largest city on Neptune. We moved around a lot because my dad was in the military, so I got to see a lot of the natural beauty of our planet at a young age. What I love about our planet is the way that even the biggest cities are constructed in harmony with the surrounding nature, the gigantic tree-like extensions that both hold our planet together and provide food for our people.
What was it like growing up? What’s the happiest memory from your childhood? My happiest moments from my childhood are from before my father died. Whenever he would have time off from his military duties, we would always do something fun where I learned something about whatever new place we were living at the time. After he died, my mother took me aboard this refugee commune called Phase Six and I spent two years there. Even though I hated it at the time, I met many people who would serve as dear friends and mentors to me later on. So, I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. Read more
Today I am happy to introduce sci-fi author, Chad Descoteaux.
Tell us about your book(s). Is there one in particular you are promoting right now? What is it about?
I have written four science fiction novels that combine grounded characters with fantastic worlds and light satire. My latest is called ‘The Inter-Terrestrial’, which is about an alien scientist struggling to return to Earth to meet his long-lost, half-human son. Strong, but not preachy, anti-racism message in a multi-generational space opera.
What genre(s) do you write in? Who is your audience?
I write science fiction novels. My audience is young adults, nerds who wait outside the theatre for the latest science fiction or superhero film, but who also like to read.
How do you come up with the ideas for your stories?
Well, a lot of what I write comes from me taking something that I either find absurd (like celebrity gossip) or downright hate (like racism) and coming up with a science fiction story that expresses how I feel about it. So, I come up with something I want to comment on and then come up with a story. Read more