Author Brit Bennett Based Her Hit Novel The Vanishing Half On A Town Near Her Mother’s Home: “Everyone was Obsessed with Color”

Posted in Articles, Interviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2021-05-15 23:14Z by Steven

Author Brit Bennett Based Her Hit Novel The Vanishing Half On A Town Near Her Mother’s Home: “Everyone was Obsessed with Color”

PEOPLE
2021-05-10

HBO plans to produce a limited series adaptation of the novel for the screen.

Mothers know best — and sometimes, they know the idea to a best selling novel.

Brit Bennett author of the hit book The Vanishing Half spoke with PEOPLE Every Day host Janine Rubenstein about the inspiration behind the story book clubs can’t stop talking about.

The Vanishing Half tells the story of two twin sisters who grow up to “live their lives off the color line“, one living as a White woman and one as a Black woman. Bennett’s mother, who is originally from Louisiana, once told her a story from her childhood about a nearby town where people were “obsessed with color”, in regards to the color of their skin.

“And, that immediately struck me as, ‘Oh, this is the setting for a novel’,” said Bennett…

Read the entire interview here.

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T Book Club: A Discussion on “Passing”

Posted in Literary/Artistic Criticism, Live Events, Passing, United States, Videos, Women on 2021-03-08 03:02Z by Steven

T Book Club: A Discussion on “Passing”

T Magazine
The New York Times
2021-03-10, 00:00Z (2021-03-09, 19:00 EST; 2021-03-09, 16:00 PST)
This event begins at 2021-03-09, 19:00 Eastern Standard Time for viewers in North America.

Join T’s book club, which focuses on classic works of American literature, for a conversation on Nella Larsen’sPassing” led by the novelist Brit Bennett.

The third title selected for T Magazine’s book club, Nella Larsen’sPassing” (1929) tells the story of two old friends, both Black women, who reunite in 1920s Harlem, despite the fact that one of them is living as a white person. Critically acclaimed at the time of its publication, the novel captures the social anxieties that plagued America during the Great Migration and remains a resonant portrait of a fractured nation.

On March 9, watch a virtual discussion of the book, featuring the novelist Brit Bennett in conversation with T features director Thessaly La Force, that will address questions from readers. And, in the weeks leading up to the event, look for articles on “Passing” at tmagazine.com. We hope you’ll read along — and R.S.V.P. above.

For more information, click here.

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The Performance of Racial Passing

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2021-03-08 01:47Z by Steven

The Performance of Racial Passing

The New York Times Style Magazine
2021-03-02

Brit Bennett


The author Nella Larsen, photographed in 1934 by Carl Van Vechten. Carl Van Vechten, ©Van Vechten Trust, Courtesy of the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University

Though Nella Larsen’s classic 1929 novel is understood to be a tragedy, it also exposes race to be something of a farce.

This article is part of T’s Book Club, a series of articles and events dedicated to classic works of American literature. Click here to R.S.V.P. to a virtual conversation, led by Brit Bennett, about “Passing,” to be held on March 9.

There’s a scene in the 1959 melodramatic film “Imitation of Life” that I have seen dozens of times, but it’s not the one you’re probably imagining: the climatic funeral scene where Sarah Jane Johnson, a young Black woman passing for white, flings herself onto the casket of the dark-skinned mother she has spent the entire film disowning. Instead, the scene that sticks with me is halfway into the movie, when Sarah Jane meets up with her white boyfriend, who has secretly discovered that she is Black. “Is your mother a nigger?” he sneers, before beating her in an alley.

I’m not proud to admit that in elementary school, my best friend and I used to watch this scene over and over again, not because we thought it was tragic, but because we found it funny. The frenetic music in the background, the melodramatic slaps, Sarah Jane’s slow crumple to the asphalt. We knew we were wrong to laugh, but we were too young to take much seriously, let alone a character like Sarah Jane, whom we found more pitiful than pitiable. We’d watched her mope through the whole movie about not wanting to be Black. Well, fine. Go see how she likes it over there.

In a strange way, the beating scene itself is almost structured like a joke. Part of the pleasure of a passing narrative is watching the passer fool her audience; in this scene, however, the audience is aware while the passer is not. Sarah Jane asks her boyfriend to run away together, the boyfriend pretends to consider it. He only has one question: Is it true? Sarah Jane laughs, unsuspecting. Is what true? But of course, we already know the punchline…

Read the entire article here.

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Brit Bennett – Colorism & Racial Passing in “The Vanishing Half” | The Daily Social Distancing Show

Posted in Interviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2020-12-14 04:04Z by Steven

Brit Bennett – Colorism & Racial Passing in “The Vanishing Half” | The Daily Social Distancing Show

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah
2020-12-03

Brit Bennett talks about exploring the effects of colorism in Black communities and the ability to pass as white in her new novel “The Vanishing Half.”

Watch the interview here.

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How The Vanishing Half fits into our cultural fixation with racial passing stories

Posted in Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2020-09-19 20:36Z by Steven

How The Vanishing Half fits into our cultural fixation with racial passing stories

Vox
2020-08-14

Constance Grady


Zac Freeland/Vox

The Vox Book Club is linking to Bookshop.org to support local and independent booksellers.

Passing for white never left.”

In Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half, the character of Stella haunts the narrative like a ghost. Stella is the half who vanished: half of her family, half of her sister’s heart. And she vanished by excising half of her own identity.

Stella is a light-skinned Black woman, and when she is 16, she decides to start passing for white. Her identical twin sister Desiree, meanwhile, grows up to marry the darkest-skinned man she can find. Stella breaks away from her family, and we don’t get a chance to meet her on the pages of the novel until nearly halfway through the book when at last her niece, Desiree’s dark-skinned daughter, tracks her down. It’s only in that last section that we finally learn exactly what happened to Stella.

Stella’s fate haunts the novel, and so does the genre her story belongs to. There’s a long history of narratives of racial passing in the American novel, and The Vanishing Half plays with the genre in new and interesting ways. So as the Vox Book Club spends the month talking about The Vanishing Half, I wanted to put it in the context of the passing novel more broadly.

To get an expert view, I called up Alisha Gaines, an English professor at Florida State University and the author of Black for a Day: White Fantasies of Race and Empathy. Together, we talked through the history of the African American passing novel, what passing looks like after Jim Crow (sorry, Ben Shapiro), and how passing novels can show us how race is produced and reproduced. Below is a transcript of our conversation, lightly edited for length and clarity.

The first African American stories of racial passing are slave narratives

Constance Grady

Do we know when the first of these narratives emerged? How old are stories about racial passing?

Alisha Gaines

It’s an old story. In literature and in life, America has a fascination with impersonation, which includes blackface minstrelsy. And passing narratives, if you want to be technical about it, in African American literature, they start with the slave narrative…

Read the entire interview here.

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Dark secrets: The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennett, reviewed

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Louisiana, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2020-07-27 00:46Z by Steven

Dark secrets: The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennett, reviewed

The Spectator
2020-07-18

Rabeea Saleem


Brit Bennett. Credit: Getty Images

Brit Bennett, The Vanishing Half, A Novel (New York: Riverhead Books, 2020)

Bennett’s compelling novel explores the fraught subject of what it means to ‘pass for white’ in a black community

Passé Blanc is the Creole expression — widely used in the US — for black people ‘passing for white’ to seek social and economic privileges otherwise denied them. Brit Bennett has a panoptic approach to racial passing in this intergenerational family saga, which takes us on a 20-year journey into the lives of twin sisters Desiree and Stella Vignes.

We meet them in the 1950s as children living in Mallard, a small town in the Deep South known for its light-skinned negroes. For Desiree, the local obsession with skin colour makes little sense, since being light-skinned didn’t save her father from being lynched by white men. In their teens, the twins run away to New Orleans, but their paths soon diverge: ‘Stella became white and Desiree married the darkest man she could find.’

Fourteen years later Desiree is spotted back in Mallard with a ‘blueblack’ child in tow called Jude. She is an anomaly in a town where ‘nobody married dark’, adhering to the strict colour code of its mixed-race founder, who was determined that the town would see ‘each generation lighter than the one before’. Stella, meanwhile, remains estranged from her family and now lives a life of luxury with her white husband and their daughter Kennedy in an affluent, all-white neighbourhood in LA. She has kept her past a secret from them, with her daughter realising how Stella would cite lack of money as an excuse not to discuss her background — ‘as if poverty were so unthinkable to Kennedy that it could explain everything’. Eventually, Jude’s and Kennedy’s paths cross, dismantling Stella’s carefully constructed façade…

Read the entire review here.

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Brit Bennett: ‘Last week was truly the wildest week of my life’

Posted in Articles, Arts, Interviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2020-07-06 16:06Z by Steven

Brit Bennett: ‘Last week was truly the wildest week of my life’

The Guardian
2020-07-05

Simran Hans


‘I’m Californian, so nobody really reads me as anxious’: Brit Bennett. Photograph: Leonardo Cendamo/Getty Images

The US author on topping the bestseller charts with her new novel, why being right is overrated, and the TV show bringing her joy in lockdown

Brit Bennett, 30, was born and raised in southern California. She attended Stanford University and earned an MFA in fiction at the University of Michigan. Her acclaimed first novel, The Mothers, was published in 2016, when she was 26. Her follow-up, The Vanishing Half, has spent the past three weeks in the top five of the New York Times bestseller list and the screen rights have been optioned by HBO in a seven-figure deal.

HBO had to outbid 17 rival TV companies in the race to adapt your book for the screen. How does that feel?
Last week was truly the wildest week of my life. It was my birthday week, so I’ve never been sent so many bottles of champagne or bouquets of flowers in my life, and probably never will be again.

And that was on top of your book debuting at No 1 in the NYT bestseller list. What were you doing when you heard the news?
It was maybe 5 o’clock in the evening and I was just sitting on my couch, and my editor called out of nowhere. We were optimistic, but I never imagined that. The people who are No 1 are household names, like Stephen King!

Describe The Vanishing Half.
It’s a story about twin sisters, Desiree and Stella, who decide to live their lives on opposite sides of the colour line – one as a white woman and one as a black woman…

Read the entire interview here.

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HBO Wins ‘The Vanishing Half’ Auction In 7-Figure Deal; 17 Bidders Pursued Brit Bennett Bestseller

Posted in Articles, Arts, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2020-07-06 15:48Z by Steven

HBO Wins ‘The Vanishing Half’ Auction In 7-Figure Deal; 17 Bidders Pursued Brit Bennett Bestseller

Deadline
2020-06-29

Mike Fleming Jr


HBO

EXCLUSIVE: HBO won a wild auction that sources said saw 17 bidders vying for The Vanishing Half, the novel by Brit Bennett that is currently atop The New York Times bestseller list. Sources said HBO will pay low seven-figures for the book and the author will be executive producer of what HBO will develop as a limited series.

The novel focuses on the Vignes sisters, identical twins who, after growing up together in a small, southern black community, run away at age sixteen. It’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Ten years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other passes for white, hiding her identity from her husband, who knows nothing of her past. Even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ storylines intersect?…

Read the entire article here.

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Brit Bennett on her New Novel ‘The Vanishing Half” and the History of Racial Passing

Posted in Audio, Interviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2020-06-30 14:45Z by Steven

Brit Bennett on her New Novel ‘The Vanishing Half” and the History of Racial Passing

CBS This Morning
2020-06-26

Best-selling author Brit Bennett is following the success of her critically-acclaimed debut, “The Mothers,” with a “The Vanishing Half,” a novel exploring the American history of racial passing. She joins CBS News’ Errol Barnett to discuss how the story, which opens in 1968, is particularly timely today. Bennett also shares her reaction to J.K. Rowling’s controversial statements on transgender women and how the trending #PublishingPaidMe has uncovered inequities within the publishing industry.

Listen to the episode (00:26:00) here. Download the episode here.

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Brit Bennett’s New Novel Explores the Power and Performance of Race

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Louisiana, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2020-06-26 03:17Z by Steven

Brit Bennett’s New Novel Explores the Power and Performance of Race

The New York Times
2020-05-26

Parul Sehgal, Book Critic

Brit Bennett, The Vanishing Half, A Novel (New York: Riverhead Books, 2020)

No nation can lay lasting claim to a genre, save perhaps one. The story of racial passing is a uniquely and intensely American form. From its earliest avatars, the 19th-century novel “Clotel,” for example, to Langston Hughes’s short stories and Nella Larsen’s 1929 masterpiece, “Passing,” to the melodrama films of the 1950s, like “Pinky” and “Imitation of Life,” it is a story central to the American imagination, re-examined and retold so regularly it seems to enjoy a perpetual heyday.

In recent years, passing narratives have shed their sentimentality and turned surreal (Boots Riley’s film “Sorry to Bother You”), comic (Spike Lee’sBlacKkKlansman”) and playful (Mat Johnson’s novel “Loving Day”). Others have flipped the formula so that it is black identity that is coveted by characters who are racially ambiguous (in the fiction of Danzy Senna, for example) or plainly white (as in Nell Zink’s novel “Mislaid”).

Through all the ways the genre has been rewritten, its potency has remained — its singular ability to enact the notion of race as arbitrary, as a performance, as something seen through, all the while inscribing its power as a source of kinship, pain and pride. Certainly few transgressions are punished so severely in literature. To pass is to court moral ruin; it is an elective orphanhood (in “Imitation of Life,” passing results in actual matricide), depicted as a kind of amputation or suicide.

In her new novel, “The Vanishing Half,” Brit Bennett brings to the form a new set of provocative questions: What if passing goes unpunished? What if the character is never truly found out? What if she doesn’t die or repent? What then?…

Read the entire book review here.

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