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KPBS Midday Edition

Oceanside Native Brit Bennett Discusses Her New Novel, 'The Vanishing Half'

Brit Bennett, author of the novel, "The Vanishing Half," is pictured in a courtesy photo.
Courtesy of Penguin Random House
Brit Bennett, author of the novel, "The Vanishing Half," is pictured in a courtesy photo.
A new novel by an Oceanside native reveals through its story the personal experience of what it’s like to be defined by the color of your skin.

The novel, by The New York Times best-selling author Brit Bennett, reveals the personal experience of what it’s like to be defined by the color of your skin.

Spanning from the 1950s to the '90s in Louisiana and California, the story is about twin sisters Stella and Desiree who look so alike the seamstress who makes their dresses for their father's funeral can’t tell them apart. They both go through the trauma of watching their Black father die in a lynching by white men.

An underlying premise of the book is the enormous effect the color of your skin has on the choices you make. After running away from home, the twins reinvent themselves in different ways. Desiree continues to live as a Black woman while Stella, after being mistaken for being white, decides to live her life as a white woman.

"What really became interesting about Stella was that question of what is she losing by becoming somebody else," Bennett said. "She gains access and power and status and wealth and a degree of freedom that she did not have previously as a Black woman growing up in the Jim Crow South but at the same time, she does lose a sense of her own past. She loses her family, she loses a sense of community and identity and culture. And I found that really compelling to think about what she is leaving behind in this choice to be a new person."

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HBO recently bought the rights to adapt the story to the screen. Bennett said she will serve as an executive producer.

Bennett discussed her novel Wednesday on Midday Edition.